Who Is “The Angel Of The Lord”?

There is a particular angel in the Old Testament, usually referred to as “the Angel of the Lord.” Many have theorised about the identity of this angel and several suggestions have also been given. Some have opined this angel is Jesus. Some Bible translations (like the NKJV) capitalises his pronouns (which is only done for God). This reveals their belief that this angel was actually God or Jesus.

Who EXACTLY Is the Angel of the Lord? 

Observe that he is called “THE angel of the Lord,” not “AN angel of the Lord,” so a specific angel is in view. The Old Testament presents this angel like he is God Himself, Who took on a physical form to interact with His people.

For example, Genesis 16 tells the story of how the Angel of the Lord ministered to Hagar (Sarai’s maid) in the wilderness (see Genesis 16:7-14). Here, the Angel of the Lord finds Hagar in the wilderness and gives her promises (vv. 10-12) and she responds to him as though He is God. She says You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees, for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (vs. 13).

Similarly, Genesis 22 records Abraham’s encounter with this same angel, when he is about to sacrifice his son Isaac. Vv. 11-12 record their discourse, “But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He (capitalized) said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that YOU FEAR GOD, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, FROM ME.’” The Angel speaks like HE is God.

Also in Genesis 31, Jacob encounters same angel.

Genesis 31:11-13 (NKJV)

11 Then THE ANGEL OF GOD spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And He (capitalized) said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I AM THE GOD OF BETHEL, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow TO ME. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’”

Again, this Angel speaks with God’s own authority. He says “I AM THE GOD OF BETHEL” and that the vow Jacob made (in Gen 28:20-22) was made to him (Vs. 13).

It was this SAME angel who appeared to Moses in the midst of a burning bush.

Exodus 3:2-6 (NKJV)

2 And THE ANGEL OF THE LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” 4 So when THE LORD saw that he turned aside to look, GOD called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6 Moreover 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 UPON GOD.

The angel speaking, calls himself the God of the Patriarchs (Vs. 6). So He seems to identify CONSISTENTLY as God.

Interestingly, at other times, the Angel of the Lord is differentiated from God. Take 2 Samuel 24, for example, “And when THE ANGEL stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, THE LORD RELENTED from the destruction, and SAID TO THE ANGEL who was destroying the people, ‘It is enough; now restrain your hand.’ And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (vs. 16). So the Lord and the angel here were different—He gave orders to the angel.

We find similiarly in Psalm 34 which says, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear HIM, and delivers them” (vs. 7). The Angel of the Lord is differentiated from the Lord, Who is feared.

Zechariah 1 records conversations between this Angel and the Lord.

Zechariah 1:11-13 (NKJV)

11 So they answered THE ANGEL OF THE LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, “We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly.” 12 Then THE ANGEL OF THE LORD answered and said, “O LORD OF HOSTS, how long will YOU not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which YOU were angry these seventy years?” 13 And THE LORD ANSWERED THE ANGEL who talked to me, with good and comforting words.

The Angel of the Lord speaks to the Lord in vs. 12, then He responds back, in vs. 13. They are NOT the same.

Then lastly, in Exodus 23 as well. God speaks here of sending this Angel before the people.

Exodus 23:20-23 (NKJV)

20 “Behold, I SEND an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of HIM and obey HIS VOICE; do not provoke HIM, for HE will not pardon your transgressions; for MY NAME IS IN HIM. 22 But if you indeed obey HIS voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 For MY ANGEL WILL GO BEFORE YOU and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. 

God differentiates Himself from this Angel here. They cannot be the SAME person. It is this same Angel Whom Isaiah 63:9 calls “the Angel of His presence” who saved the people.

The question therefore is: Who then is this Angel? Many suggestions have been given. Some say the angel of the Lord is simply an angel with a special commission.

The second school of thought opine that this angel is a theophany, which refers to a phenomenon in which a god temporarily descends into humanity, taking physical form or manifestation. This is very common in Greek mythology.

Then there is also a third school which believe this angel to be Jesus, in a physical form (known as a christophany).

The last two schools of thoughts are not plausible, since John 1:18 makes it clear that, “No one has seen God at ANY time. The only begotten Son, who is IN the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

This means that it was not until Jesus came that God was seen PHYSICALLY, amongst men!

The Angel of the Lord, therefore, would be merely an angel. He was a mighty warrior angel, who carried out tremendous exploits, amongst the Jews. The best guess is Michael, the archangel. He ranks high amongst the angels of God (see Dan 10:13, 12:1).

This Angel had VERY HIGH authority. He often spoke LIKE God, because He had God’s Name i.e. His authority (Exo 23:21). In Bible days, the one with another’s authority was regarded as him (similiar to the principle of vicarious liability in common law today). This is why this angel often carried out actions, as God, and even referred to Himself as God. But he is not God! He is Yahweh’s angel sent with authority, to His people.

His identity remains unknown. Michael seems to be the best suggestion, from inference. But asides inferences, the Bible does not give a CLEAR identity, and it is best to be silent where the Bible is. But one thing we can know for sure is that the Angel of The Lord is neither God nor Jesus.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.

1 Comment

  1. Morolayo Tayo

    Thanks for this clearity Pastor Banks. Now I know the angel of the Lord is neither God nor Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *