the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Angel of the Lord
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
or the Angel Jehovah, a title given to Christ in his different appearances to the patriarchs and others in the Old Testament.
When the Angel of the Lord found Hagar in the wilderness, "she called the name of JEHOVAH that spake to her, Thou God seest me."—JEHOVAH appeared unto Abraham in the plains of Mamre. Abraham lifted up his eyes, and three men, three persons in human form, "stood by him." One of the three is called Jehovah. And J
EHOVAH said, "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do?" Appearances of the same personage occur to Isaac and to Jacob under the name of "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac." After one of these manifestations, Jacob says, "I have seen God face to face;"
and at another, "Surely the Lord (JEHOVAH) is in this place." The same Jehovah was made visible to Moses, and gave him his commission; and God said, "I AM THAT I AM; thou shalt say to the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." The same JEHOVAH went before the Israelites by day in a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire; and by Him the law was given amidst terrible displays of power and majesty from mount Sinai. "I am the Lord (JEHOVAH) thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage: Thou shalt have no other gods before me," &c. The collation of a few passages, or of the different parts of the same passages, of Scripture, will show that Jehovah, and "the Angel of the Lord," when used in this eminent sense, are the same person. Jacob says of Bethel, where he had exclaimed, "Surely Jehovah is in this place;" "The Angel of God appeared to me in a dream, saying, I am the God of Bethel." Upon his death bed he gives the names of God and Angel to this same person: "The God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads." So in Hosea 12:2; Hosea 12:5 , it is said, "By his strength he had power with God; yea, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed." "We found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us, even the Lord God of Hosts; the Lord is his memorial." Here the same person has the names, God, Angel, and Lord God of Hosts. "The Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, (JEHOVAH,) that since thou hast done this thing, in blessing will I bless thee." The Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire; but this same Angel "called to him out of the bush, and said, I am the God of thy fathers, 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." To omit many other passages, St. Stephen, in alluding to this part of the history of Moses, in his speech before the council, says, "There appeared to Moses in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an Angel of the Lord in a flame of fire," showing that that phraseology was in use among the Jews in his day, and that this Angel and Jehovah were regarded as the same being; for he adds, "Moses was in the church in the wilderness with the Angel which spoke unto him in Mount Sinai." There is one part of the history of the Jews in the wilderness, which so fully shows that they distinguished this Angel of Jehovah from all created angels, as to deserve particular attention. In Exodus 23:20 , God makes this promise to Moses and the Israelites: "Behold, I send an Angel before thee to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice; provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him." Of this Angel let it be observed, that he is here represented as the guide and protector of the Israelites; to him they were to owe their conquests and their settlement in the promised land, which are in other places often attributed to the immediate agency of God; that they are cautioned to "beware of him," to reverence and stand in dread of him; that the pardoning of transgressions belongs to him; finally, "that the name of God was in him." This name must be understood of God's own peculiar name, JEHOVAH, I AM, which he assumed as his distinctive appellation at his first appearing to Moses; and as the names of God are indicative of his nature, he who had a right to bear the peculiar name of God, must also have his essence. This view is put beyond all doubt by the fact, that Moses and the Jews so understood the matter; for afterward when their sins had provoked God to threaten not to go up with them himself, but to commit them to "an angel who should drive out the Canaanite," &c, the people mourned over this as a great calamity, and Moses betook himself to special intercession, and rested not until he obtained the repeal of the threat, and the renewed promise, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." Nothing, therefore, can be more clear than that Moses and the Israelites considered the promise of the Angel, in whom was "the name of God," as a promise that God himself would go with them. With this uncreated Angel, this presence of the Lord, they were satisfied, but not with "an angel" indefinitely, who was by nature of that order of beings usually so called, and therefore a created being; for at the news of God's determination not to go up with them, Moses hastens to the tabernacle to make his intercessions, and refuses an inferior conductor:—"If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence."
The Jews held this Word, or Angel of the Lord, to be the future Messiah, as appears from the writings of their older rabbins. So that he appears as the Jehovah of all the three dispensations, and yet is invariably described as a separate person from the unseen Jehovah who sends him. He was then the Word to be made flesh, and to dwell for a time among us, to open the way to God by his sacrifice, and to rescue the race, whose nature he should assume, from sin and death. This he has now actually effected; and the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian religions are thus founded upon the same great principles,—the fall and misery of mankind, and their deliverance by a Divine Redeemer.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'The Angel of the Lord'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​t/the-angel-of-the-lord.html. 1831-2.