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Angel of the Lord

The following is part of a theology paper I once wrote with additions in places (Mostly in adding New Testament Theology, Jubilees, as well as the showing of the original languages).

“מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה” That is the angel of the LORD (or preferably Yahweh) is one of the more enigmatic of the beings known as angels. Whenever the angel of Yahweh is found it is in the most different of passages, but in every passage he is given a special place, when mentioned he often becomes the center of said event.1 Whenever the angel of Yahweh appears in the Old Testament he is always singular there is never two of them in his appearances one may assume a deliverance of sorts or an announcement of a deliverer(s) (Genesis 19; Exodus 14.19; Numbers 20.16; Judges 6.13).2 The angel of Yahweh is one who is always helping and acting in the interest Israelites.3 He may also deliverer a sort of commission to be heard (1 Kings 13.18; Chronicles 21:18).4

Yahweh’s angel also appears in Zechariah among myrtle trees and speaks with the prophet, as well as being seen defending Joshua the High Priest amidst Satan’s claims (Zechariah 1.8-17; 3.1-10).5 For each of the prophet’s questions the angel of Yahweh is the interpreter. Here he is commonly seen with the phrase “הַמַּלְאָךְ הַדּבֵר בִּי” meaning “the angel who talked with me.”6 (Zechariah 1.9,13; 2.2; etc.)

It may also be argued that this same angel is seen within the New Testament. The phrase “ἄγγελος Κυρίου” is a Greek phrase used to translate the Hebrew one of “מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה” that is the angel of Yahweh as evidenced by the LXX normative usage.7 This same phrase is seen once more in the New Testament. Most scholars translate this as “an angel of the Lord,” but there is no “linguistic basis” for this (apart for theological issues).8 Besides the linguistic data shown with New Testament and LXX we can see that the accounts the of angel of Lord in the New Testament (Matthew 1.20, 24; Luke 1.11; 2.9-12) and his interactions are remarkable similar to those seen in the Old Testament Narratives, giving a logical basis to assume the two as one.9 (Assuming this does lead to some very sticky theological issues with what to do with this being).

There is also the question of how the angel of Yahweh is portrayed within the intertestmental times. One needs to look at the angel of Presence who is a central character in the intertestmental book of Jubilees. In the book of Jubilees it isn’t Yahweh who’s behind Moses’ writing but instead Yahweh tells an angel, specially the angel of Presence to be the one to tell Moses what to write.10 While looking at this angel it can be seen right away that he is an important character, due to this closeness to God; he is in very presence of Yahweh after all.11 It has to be noted however that this title for an angel does not appear in any of the Biblical accounts, but it does seems to stem from the Hebrew Scriptures and it does appear in several different Qumran manuscripts.12

The angel is almost certain to be associated as the angel of Yahweh due to the author of Jubilees’ reworking of Genesis 22. Biblically the passage here refers to the angel of Yahweh several times, while in Jubilees (chapter 18) it is the angel of Presence who is in frame of this story, additionally there are several points in Jubilees where the angel of Presence does something that in the biblically text is said to have been done by God.13 Thus at least to the writer of Jubilees the Angel of Yahweh doesn’t equate Yahweh himself, but a very special angel, one who is allowed before the very face of Yahweh.

The main difficultly with the angel of Yahweh is in trying to figure out who exactly this angel is. There are three main views of whom or what Yahweh’s angel may be. Firstly that is he is a theophany of Yahweh before the people. Another along the same lines is that the angel is a Christophany; preincarnation of the Christ. And thirdly that he is another angelic being, albeit one that holds a very special place with God.14 The majority view amongst Christendom is that he is the preincarnate Christ. However I hold to the view that he is an angel with special place in the kingdom of God.

For example looking at the Burning Bush in Exodus 3 we can come up with several solutions. That the message ultimately came from Yahweh though it was an angel who spoke and therefore the author at times just says Yahweh.15 That while the messenger may start the conversation, at certain points Yahweh intercedes when the message becomes far too important to let even this holy angel speak, such as the revealing of his name.16 Thirdly that yes it was Yahweh who had spoken throughout the passage, but the angel was there interceding since Moses would not be allowed to see God.17 Each of these views can then be used in the other passages of the Old Testament which deal with the angel of Yahweh.

The question must then also be asked is there just one Angel of Yahweh or many? For by agreeing that the Greek and Hebrew phrases are conneced so is the idea that it is either definite or indefinite. W. G. Macdonald purposes it should be translated as “an angel of the Lord” in both of the testaments, which Wallace agrees with although feels there is a certain angel in view.18 If that is the case then do we have any clue as to which Angel this might be then? Judges 13.18 answers the question that the Angel’s name is “Hidden,” while fast forwarding to Christ’s birth the angel names himself as Gabriel. Does this point to two different angels or rather could Gabriel not reveal his name to Samson’s Parents, but he could to John’s?

– Le Bel Inconnu

1 Pg 286, Gerhard, Von Rad. Old Testament Theology. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
2 Pg 669. Jenni, Ernst, and Claus Westermann, eds. Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament. Trans. Mark E. Biddle. Vol. II. New York: Hendrickson, Incorporated, 1997. 669-70.
3 Pg 286, Von Rad
4 Pg 670, Jenni and Westermann 670
5 Pg 60, Lightner, Robert. Angels, Satan, and Demons: Invisible Beings That Inhabit the Spiritual World. Nashville: World 1998.
6 ESV
7 Pg 252, Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.
8 Pg 252, Wallace
9 Pg 9, Green, J. B., and S. McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992.
10 Pg 87 VanderKam, James C. The Book of Jubilees. London: Burns & Oates, 2001.
11 Pg 87 VanderKam
12 Pg 87-8 VanderKam
13 Pg 89 VanderKam
14 Pg 60-1 Lightner
15 Pg 320, Botterweck, G. Johannes. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974.
16 Pg 320, Botterweck
17 Pg 320, Botterweck
18 Pg 252, Wallace

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