AN ANGEL YOU OUGHT TO KNOW
by Loren Jacobs
Focus on Jerusalem, in its continuing endeavor to make
available interesting articles associated with Bible Prophecy is pleased to
present this provocative article entitled, “An Angel you Ought to Know,” by
Loren Jacobs. It is an intriguing article and FOJ hopes that its presentation
will inspire your further interest in the study of the things of our Lord.
The modern mind cannot conceive of angelic beings. This is due in part to
medieval art and literature, which relegate belief in angels to the realm of
superstition. Or perhaps we like to try to explain away that which makes us
uncomfortable. Indeed, there are those who would even dismiss the belief in God
as mere superstition.
Yet virtually every
philosopher who has recognized the God of the Bible has also believed in
angels-not the cute cherubs of Christmas cards, but mighty and powerful
spiritual beings who are servants of the Most High God.
In Hebrew, the word for
"angel" is malakh.. A malakh is a messenger, either human or angelic. Yet
there is one malakh who stands out from all the rest. The Bible calls him
simply, "the angel of the Lord."
Since the time of
Abraham, our people have known about the angels of the Lord. In the Talmud he is
given the name Metatarsus, which indicates a special relationship with God. One
meaning of meta and thronos, two Greek words, gives the sense of
"one who serves behind the throne of God." He is also known as the "Prince of
the Countenance" because of the close proximity between this angel and God
Himself. The implication for the malakh of the Lord is that He is, above all,
the messenger of God, the one sent by God, the one who represents God Himself.
Throughout the Tanach,
the angel of the Lord often appeared in human form. He served in three
ways---guiding the people of Israel, effecting miracles, and executing judgment
on Israel's enemies.
He is first mentioned in
Genesis 16. After Hagar fled into the wilderness to escape from Sarah, Abraham's
wife, the angel of the Lord found her and admonished her to return to her
mistress. He then promised to greatly multiply her descendants and prophesied
the birth of Ishmael, who became the progenitor on the Arab nations.
In Genesis 22, read every
Yom Kippur, it is the angel of the Lord who called from heaven to stay the hand
of Abraham as he took the knife to slay his son Isaac. In Exodus 14, he was in
the pillar of cloud guiding the Israelites through the wilderness after their
flight from Egypt. In Numbers 22:22-35, the angel of the Lord appeared to
Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet, and gave him orders to be followed.
He instructed Gideon in
Judges 6, telling him to deliver Israel from Midian. He prophesied the birth of
Samson (Judges 13), directed Elijah to Mt. Horeb (I Kings 19), and commanded
King David to build an altar in Jerusalem which later became the site of the
temple of Solomon (I Chronicles 21:18).
The angel of the Lord is
also presented to us as an avenger of evil, a judge. When Assyria, which was one
of the ancient super powers, threatened to destroy Israel (700's BC), it was the
angel of the Lord who killed the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers besieging Jerusalem
(2 Kings 19:35). This angel, powerful in battle, was gentle enough to succor a
fleeing and frightened Hagar in the wilderness.
This angel was perceived
in a unique and remarkable way by those with whom he came in contact. In ancient
times it was common knowledge that if one saw God, it meant death for the
individual. God stated this directly to Moses on Mt. Sinai: "You cannot see my
face, for no one may see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). After Hagar saw the angel
of the Lord, it is recorded that she called him Lord and marveled that she was
still alive after having seen him (Genesis 16:33).
Jacob reacted in a
similar fashion when he wrestled with a "man" during the night. The man blessed
Jacob and changed the patriarch's name to Israel. Jacob responded by calling the
place of this encounter Peniel, saying, 'it is because I saw God face to face,
and yet my life was spared.' (Genesis 32:30). Jacob identified the "man" as God.
Later in his life, when Jacob blessed his son Joseph and his children, he said,
"The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been
my Shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all
harm..." (Genesis 48:15,16). The parents of Samson, likewise, recognized the
angels of the Lord to be God, "We are doomed to die!...We have seen God!"
The angel of the Lord
appeared to Moses in the midst of a burning bush (Exodus 3:2) but then in verse
4, "God called to him from with the bush..." When the Lord delivered the
children of Israel from Egypt, the Bible says, "By day the Lord went ahead of
them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of
fire to give them light..." (Exodus 13:21). But we read again in Chapter 14,
verse 19, that the "angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's
army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in
front and stood behind them, coming in between the armies of Egypt and Israel"
(Exodus 14:19,20). And then in verse 24 we are told that the Lord looked down on
the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and cloud, and fought against
Egypt! Who is involved in this pillar-the angel of the Lord or God Himself?
In Judges 6, the angel of
the Lord appeared to a timid Gideon and sat down under an oak tree to initiate a
conversation with him (vss. 11,12). In verse 13, we see Gideon responding, but
in verse 14 something strange happens: all of a sudden it is the Lord who is
seen talking to Gideon! In verse 16, the conversation continues, but in verse
20, it is the angel of God who is in conversation. The next verse relates a
miracle is performed by the angel. Then Gideon responds: 'Ah, Sovereign LORD! I
have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!' But the LORD said to him, "Peace!
Do not be afraid. You are not going to die!" (Judges 6:22,23)
Are there two or three
characters in this passage? One, of course, is Gideon. In verses 11 and 12 we
have the angel of the Lord, then the Lord in verses 14 and 16, then the angel of
God in verse 20 and again the angel of the Lord in verse 21. This writer
maintains that the angel of the Lord must be the Lord God. Yet in some sense,
the angel of the Lord, even though He Himself is deity, must be distinguished
from the totality of the Godhead. For in Zechariah 1:12, the angel of the Lord
is seen interceding on behalf of Israel, calling out to the Lord of hosts! The
Holy Scriptures have given us a paradox: The Angel of the LORD is distinct from
God, yet is Himself very God!
This paradox is
consistent with God's very nature. God, who is involved with His creation and
interested in our welfare (Psalm 139:3, 13) is also high above (Isaiah 55:8,9).
God is a vengeful God to those who flaunt His revealed will (Deuteronomy 32:35),
and yet He is merciful (Exodus 33:19). God is all-important (Psalm 139), and yet
He willingly "forgets" (Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 64:9). God is an advocate, a
defender of His people (Psalm 59:1, Job 16:19), but He is also a prosecutor and
judge (Psalm 50:6), Ecclesiastes 3:17). When we study the nature of God, we find
The angel of the Lord,
God Himself, revealed Himself in a visible, personal way-taking the form of a
This writer maintains
that not only could the angel of the Lord assume human form, but that, in time,
he took on true humanity by being born into the human race!
being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be
grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being
made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:6,7) (NIV)
This writer also
maintains that the Old and New Testaments are intrinsically connected and make
up God's revelation to man. The claims in the New Testament portion concerning
Jesus correspond to those claims in the Old Testament portion which refer to the
angel of the Lord. Jesus claimed to be the supreme malakh of God. "Anyone who
has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The angel of the Lord did
miraculous acts; so did Jesus. (See John 2:9, Matthew 8:3, Luke 7:11, Matthew
15:32, etc.) The angel of the Lord taught and instructed people; Jesus was
called "rabbi" (John 20:16). The angel of the Lord is a judge of mankind; in
John 5:22 we see "The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to
the Son." Is Jesus of Nazareth and the angel that wrestled with Jacob one and
the same? Carefully study the Scriptures for God's answer.
by Loren Jacobs