In his book, The Great Doctrines of the Bible, Dr. William Evans discusses the doctrine of “The Angel of the Lord”. He states the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the second person of the Trinity. The scriptures he discusses in support of this doctrine are Genesis 16:7-13; 18:1-17,20,22; 22:12; Exodus 13:21; 14:19; Judges 13:18 and Isaiah 9:6. Footnotes in The Amplified Bible on Genesis 16:7; 18:10; Exodus 14:19 and Judges 13:3,6 also support this doctrine.
However, notes on Genesis 16:13 in the Spirit-Filled Life Bible state the Hebrews did not distinguish the Angel of the Lord from God Himself. The notes also state theophanies or manifestations of God were sometimes accomplished through intermediary angels. Scripture references used to support this claim are Acts 7:30-32,38,53 and Hebrews 2:2.
Is the Angel of the Lord the second Person of the Trinity or an angel – a high ranking personal attendant of the Lord? The answer to this question may be found by careful study of the scriptures mentioned above and other Old and New Testament scriptures which discuss the ministry of angels.
Although in his book, Dr. Evans concludes the Angel of the Lord is the second Person of the Trinity, he also states Genesis 16:13; 22:12 and Exodus 13:21 identify the Angel of the Lord with Jehovah Himself. Footnotes on Genesis 16:7 in The Amplified Bible rule out this possibility using Genesis 24:7; Exodus 23:30 and Zechariah 1:12,13 as references. In each of these scriptures, God the Father is mentioned as a person distinctly separate from the angel mention in these verses.
The Amplified Bible footnotes further state the term “Angel of the Lord” does not appear after the incarnation of Jesus. The notes state the Angel of the Lord must of necessity be One of the three-in-one Godhead. These footnotes also quote The Cambridge Bible which states the coming of the Messiah was forecast at intervals from Genesis to Malachi by theophanies experienced by Abraham, Hagar, Moses, Gideon and the parents of Samson.
However, just as Genesis 24:7; Exodus 23:20 and Zechariah 1:12,13 rule out the possibility of the angel of the Lord being God the Father, Luke 2:9; Acts 13:7 and Acts 27:23 rule out the possibility of the Angel of the Lord being Jesus Christ. Each of these scriptures mention the term “Angel of the Lord” or “Angel of God” and they all took place after the incarnation of Jesus.
In Luke 2:9, the Angel of the Lord announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. In Acts 12:7-10, the Angel of the Lord released Peter from prison. In Acts 27:23, the Angel of God stood by Paul and spoke to him concerning the shipwreck he was about to experience. No mention is made of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul does not refer to the Angel of God as “Lord” as he addressed Jesus when he met Him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:5).
The Angel of the Lord told the shepherds they could find Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger in Bethlehem. Therefore, the Angel of the Lord and Jesus were both in the earth at the same time. The events recorded in Acts 12:7-10 and Acts 27:23 occurred after the ascension of Jesus. At the time of their occurrence, Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. Therefore, the Angel of the Lord is not the second Person of the Trinity.
Who then is the Angel of the Lord? Careful study of Hebrews 1:13,14 and Psalm 1-3:20,21 will shed light on the answer to this question.
Hebrews 1:13,14 define angels as ministering spirits. The Amplified Bible also uses the word servants to define them. The word minister used in verse 14 comes from the Greek word diakonia. It means to labor for the benefit of others. Verse 14 also states angels are “sent ones”. Therefore, a true definition of angels is “They are servants sent forth to labor for the benefit of those who shall be heirs of salvation”.
One scripture referenced by the term ministering spirits is Genesis 19:16. In this scripture, two angels (see Genesis 19:1) take Lot, his wife and two daughters by the hand and bring them out of the city of Sodom. Lot had lingered in the city after being instructed by the angels to leave. Their taking Lot and his family by the hand and bringing them out of the city was God’s way of being merciful to him for being slow to heed the instructions given to him by the angels. The two angels were servants of the Lord, sent forth to labor for the benefit of Abraham (see Genesis 19:29).
Another scripture referenced by Hebrews 1:14 is Daniel 10:11. It tells of one who was sent to Daniel to help him understand the vision he had received from the Lord (see Daniel 10:14). While no mention of the word angel is made, the person who was sent was clearly a servant of the Lord who labored for the benefit of Daniel (see Daniel 10:12,13).
Psalm 103:20,21 gives the following facts about angels. They 1) excel in strength 2) do the Lord’s commandments by hearkening unto the voice of His word 3) are His ministers 4) do His pleasure. The word commandments, comes from the Hebrew word dhavar which means saying or speech. Webster’s dictionary defines the word hearken as giving careful attention to. The word ministers, comes from the Hebrew word sharath. It means to render service to. It refers to a high-ranking attendant who renders personal service to someone important. The word pleasure comes from the Hebrew word ratson. It means delight, inclination or good will. It refers to that which a king can do if he chooses to.
The facts concerning angels found in Psalm 103:20,21 may be restated as follows: “Angels are exceptionally strong, high-ranking personal attendants of the Lord. They perform whatever He chooses to do. They give careful attention to the voice of His word and do whatever He says.” These restated facts fit the description of the “man” in Daniel 10:11. He was sent to help Daniel understand the vision the Lord had given him. These facts also fit the description of the “man” Jacob wrestled with until the break of day (see Genesis 32:24).
Hosea 12:4 refers to the “man” Jacob wrestled with as an angel. The word translated "angel" in Hosea 12:4 is the same word translated "angels" in Psalm 103:20. It is the Hebrew word mal’akh. It means someone dispatched as a deputy, a messenger or a herald.
Interestingly enough, mal’akh is also translated as Angel of the Lord or Angel of God in Genesis 16:10-13; 22:11; Judges 13:6,9 and Zechariah 1:12. Since mal’akh was translated as angels in Psalm 103:20 and Psalm 103:20,21 is a description of angels, the term Angel of the Lord or Angel of God must refer to an angel.
Hebrews 2:2; Galatians 3:19 and Acts 7:53 establish the fact that God gave instructions to the descendents of Abraham through the use of angels. The word ordained in Galatians 3:19 comes from the Greek word diatasso. It means to appoint or order. The word disposition used in Acts 7:53 comes from the Greek word diatage. It also means to appoint or order. The New King James Version of the Bible uses the word, appoint. The New King James Version also uses the word direction instead of disposition in Acts 7:53. So God gave direction to the descendants of Abraham through the use of angels.
The word angels used in Galatians 3:19 comes from the Greek word aggelos. It means messenger, but denotes an office or position. So there are angels who hold an office or position that involves giving direction to the descendants of Abraham. This fits the description of the Angel of the Lord who appeared to Manoah and his wife. The angel gave them instructions concerning Samson (Judges 13:3-14).
Evidently, angels who hold the office of speaking directly to Abraham and his descendants also have the authority to speak the words of God. This is illustrated in Genesis 22:16 in which the angel of the Lord (see verse 15) speaks as if God was speaking directly to Abraham. The angel qualifies his speech by saying, “saith the Lord”. This explains why some persons who had and encounter with the Angel of the Lord said they had seen God (Judges 13:22) or questioned whether or not they had seen God (Genesis 16:13). The Angel of the Lord spoke to them as if God was speaking directly to them.
In Genesis 16:7-12, the writer of Genesis authoritatively refers to the “person” who spoke to Hagar as the Angel of the Lord. The angel himself told Hagar the Lord had heard her affliction (verse 11). In verse 13, Hagar refers to the One who spoke to her as God. This does not mean God appeared to Hagar, but that He spoke to her through an angel. (Hagar’s baby was a descendant of Abraham.)
The word God used in verse 13 comes from the Hebrew word el. It means might. So in essence Hagar said, “Someone mighty sees me”. El can be used to refer to men, angels or God. When Hagar stated God saw her, she was referring to the Lord God. However, when she questioned whether or not she had seen God, she was referring to an angel.
In Genesis 18:17, no mention is made of any angels. Genesis 18:2 states Abraham looked and saw three men standing beside him. The word men, comes from the Hebrew word enosh. It means individual, mankind or mortal. It is used to denote man’s weakness or frailty.
Genesis 19:1 identifies two of the men Abraham saw as angels. Genesis 18:17,20,22 identify the third man as the Lord. Abraham experienced a theophany. In this theophany, the Lord appeared to Abraham in the form of a man. Two angels who also appeared in the form of men accompanied Him. Genesis 18 mentions absolutely nothing about three angels.
Exodus 13:21 states the Lord went before the children of Israel in a pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Exodus 14:19 states the angel of God moved from in front of the camp of Israel to behind it. When he did this, the pillar of the cloud also moved. God was leading the camp of Israel through the use of an angel. Exodus 23:20-23 also support this statement.
In Exodus 23:21, God warned the children of Israel to obey the angel that was leading them (verse 20). The Lord warned them not to provoke the angel because he would not pardon their transgressions. The reason the angel would not pardon Israel’s transgressions was because God’s name was in him.
The phrase “My name is in him” references Isaiah 9:6, which contains the phrase “shall be called”. The phrase shall be called comes from the Hebrew word qara. It means to cry out, proclaim or summon. It is the enunciation of a specific message that is addressed to a specific recipient. It is also intended to elicit a specific response.
By placing His name within the angel, the Lord exercised His sovereignty over him. He also instilled a particular character within the angel. That character was to execute the word of the Lord. Therefore, any disobedience to the word of the Lord on Israel’s part would provoke the angel and cause Israel to suffer the consequences. So Exodus 23:20-23 substantiates the fact that God lead the camp of Israel through the use of an angel.
In Judges 13:18, the Angel of the Lord states his name is secret. The word secret comes from the Hebrew word pali. It means wonderful, remarkable or incomprehensible. However, pali is an adjective and is not to be confused with the Hebrew noun pele, used in Isaiah 9:6. Pele means wonderful. It is used to refer to Jesus.
By referring to his name as secret, the Angel of the Lord was saying his name is a remarkable thing. It is incomprehensible. Pele describes the character of Jesus. He is Wonderful!
Who is the Angel of the Lord? The Bible does not specifically refer to him by name, but one possibility is Gabriel. Luke 1:19 identifies him as one who stands in the presence of God. Isaiah 63:9 mentions “the angel of His presence” and refers to Exodus 14:19; 23:20,21; 33:14 and Acts 12:11. Exodus 14:19 and Acts 12:11 refer to the Angel of the Lord. Because the Angel of the Lord is a messenger (Genesis 22:16) and Gabriel is also a messenger (Luke 1:19), the Angel of the Lord is probably Gabriel.