God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (Genesis
12:2; 15:16). Abraham has been walking by faith and he is now in the Promised Land
(Gen. 15:7; 16:3). However, he has still not seen the birth of the promised son.
Abraham listened to Sarah and got into deep trouble. When left to human ingenuity we
often fail. God, however, wants it to be clearly understood by everyone involved that the
child is in every sense to be a child of promise. Abraham and Sarah are now advanced in
years. Man can contribute nothing. Only the God of grace can provide the son of the
Abe and Sarah have waited long enough, or so they think.
Hagar is Sarah's maid, and she is the innocent party. She is just a family maid who is
loyal to her master, and a believer in the God of Abraham. Abraham got Hagar pregnant and
strife broke out in the home (16:56). In despair, Hagar ran away. "Sarah
treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence" (16:6).
It is while Hagar was in the wilderness, alone and fearful that "the angel of the
LORD found her" and revealed Himself to her (16:7).
Who is this "angel of Yahweh"? What makes him different from other angels who
appear in the Old Testament?
I agree with Hengstenberg in Christology of the Old Testament, the German
scholars Keil and Delitzch, H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, among other
scholars as to the identification of this special person. Probably Leupold summarizes this
position better than anyone does (pp. 500501).
Several things stand out about this angel in various passages of Scripture.
- "The angel of the LORD" was a divine personage and "He is to be regarded
as a kind of preincarnation of the Messiah." The identity of "the angel of
the LORD" with Yahweh is fully established in v. 13. "Then she called the name
of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God who sees'; for she said, 'Have I even
remained alive here after seeing Him?'" The angel of the LORD is not a created being,
but the divine being Himself. He is "in a class by Himself and recognized as a
superior being by the writers of the Old Testament."
- The angel of the LORD definitely identifies Himself with Yahweh on various occasions. In
verse ten, "Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will greatly multiply
your descendants so that they will be too many to count.'" This is no ordinary
messenger of God. He doesn't say, "God will." He says, "I will greatly
multiply your descendents." Examine Genesis 18:1921 and note who is speaking
and who is making the promises to Abraham. "The angel of the LORD" in chapter
seventeen is "God" in chapter eighteen. The angel of the LORD is God Himself.
- The angel of the LORD reveals Himself to people and they understand Him to be a divine
- The writers of the Old Testament call Him Yahweh (LORD). In a time of crisis the angel
of the LORD visited Gideon to give encouragement (Judges 6:1124). It climaxes with
worship in verse 2021, "The angel of God said to him, 'Take the meat and the
unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.' And he did so. Then
the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the
meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and
the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight." Note
carefully what happens next. "When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord, he
said, 'Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.' The Lord
said to him, 'Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.' Then Gideon built an altar
there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the
Abiezrites" (vv. 224).
- The doctrine of the trinity of the Godhead is here implied. This theophany is in perfect
accordance with the earlier foreshadowing. He is perfectly equal with
Godessentially one with God, yet a distinct person from Yahweh (cf. 16:10;
17:20). Judges 2:1 has an interesting observation about the exodus. "Now the angel of
the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, 'I brought you up out of Egypt and
led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, I will never
break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the
inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed
Me; what is this you have done?"
The angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah and his wife promising them a son (Judges
13:223). The passage reaches its climax in verses 1922. Manoah said to his
wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God" (v. 22). The angel of the LORD
Several scholars have observed "the organic unity of Scripture would be broken if
it could be proved that the central point in the Old Testament revelation was a creature
angel, while that of the New Testament is the incarnation of the God-Man" (Leupold,
A theophany is a manifestation of God in visible and bodily form before the incarnation
of Jesus Christ. The theophanies are chiefly appearances of the angel of the LORD, who is
clearly distinct from angelic beings. They are actual occurrences, not imaginary, not
hallucinatory experiences. They take place in historical settings initiated only by God.
Who is this angel of the LORD? The earliest church fathers and most conservative
evangelical Bible scholars agree that the angel of the LORD is no one other than Jesus
Christ, the Word of God, the second person of the Godhead. These theophanies are
preincarnate appearances of God the Son in human form. The angel of the LORD appeared only
in the Old Testament. Theophanies are unknown in the New Testament after the permanent
incarnation of Christ.
In the fullness of time, "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw
His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . No
one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He
has explained Him" (John 1:14, 18). When you look into the face of the Lord
Jesus Christ, you see the face of God. In Him, we have the perfect vision of what God is
like. Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."