(Heb. mal'ak yehwah). Supernatural being who bears a message on behalf of God. In many passages in the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord is identified with God, while in other instances a distinction is made between the Lord and the angel. In general, however, the terms "the angel of the Lord, " "the Lord, " and "God" are interchangeable.
The angel of the Lord is the messenger of both good and evil. He comes to Hagar after she has fled from the abusive Sarai ( Gen 16:7-14 ) to assure her that God has heard about her misery and that her descendants will be too numerous to count. She names him "You are the God who sees me" (v. 13). The angel of the Lord pronounces a curse on the people of Meroz, because they refused to come to the help of the Lord ( Jud 5:23 ).
The angel of the Lord executes judgment on behalf of the Lord. He puts to death 185, 000 Assyrian soldiers in their camp, thereby saving Jerusalem from decimation ( 2 Ki 19:35 ).
The angel of the Lord both commissions and commends God's servants. The commander of the Lord's army commissions Joshua to undertake the Lord's battles for Canaan, just as Moses had been commissioned to confront Pharaoh ( Joshua 5:13-15 ; cf. Exod 3:5 ). The angel of the Lord appears to Abraham. He stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and commends him because he has not withheld his only son from God ( Gen 22:11-18 ). Abraham identifies the angel as God, calling the place "The Lord Will Provide."
The angel of the Lord carries out a ministry of reconciliation. He asks how long God will withhold mercy from Jerusalem and Judah ( Zec 1:12 ).
The connection between the angel of the Lord and the preincarnate appearance of the Messiah cannot be denied. Manoah meets the angel of the Lord, and declares that he has seen God. The angel accepts worship from Manoah and his wife as no mere angel, and refers to himself as "Wonderful, " the same term applied to the coming deliverer in Isaiah 9:6 ( Jud 13:9-22 ). The functions of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament prefigure the reconciling ministry of Jesus. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the angel of the Lord; the Messiah himself is this person.
See also Theophany
Bibliography. A. Bowling, TWOT, 1:464-65; G. B. Funderburk, ZPEB, 1:160-66; J. B. Payne, Theology of the Older Testament.
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