The Angel Of The Lord


A dear friend of mine recently asked me who the ‘angel of the LORD’ is but determining the identity of ‘the angel of the LORD’, isn’t always easy.

However, when we remember to keep the text in its proper context, and carefully read through those texts, this will help us understand the identity of ‘the angel of the LORD’.

The word, ‘mal’akh’ in English is ‘angel’, and I believe the word ‘angel’ can be misleading because most people when they think of angels, often think of them having wings, but this isn’t always the case, sometimes they simply appear in human form, Genesis 18:1-8 / Genesis 18:22 / Genesis 19:1-3 / Numbers 22:23 / Numbers 22:31 / Hebrews 1:14.

There are four main theories concerning the identity of the ‘angel of the LORD’.

1. A special angel messenger, a heavenly being, who acted as God’s representative, but God Himself.

2. God the Father, showing Himself as a divine manifestation to humanity. This is known as a theophany, the appearance of God.

3. God the Son, manifested in a pre-incarnate body form. This is known as a Christophony, the appearance of Christ.

4. The figure is sometimes a manifestation of God and sometimes an angelic heavenly being representing God, depending on the context of the text.

Some scholars estimate that ‘the angel of the LORD’ makes an appearance in the Scriptures some 65 times. Time and space won’t allow us to go through every example, but we will look at a few in order to help us identify who the ‘angel of the LORD’ actually is.

The first mention of the ‘angel of the LORD’ is found in Genesis 16:7-13, when He appears to Hagar whilst she’s in the desert.

Notice that the angel of the LORD speaks as though He isn’t the LORD but yet, He also presumes Himself to be God’s mouthpiece. He speaks in the first person and we read that Hagar herself declares that ‘you are the God who sees me,’ Genesis 16:13.

The second mention of the ‘angel of the LORD,’ is when He speaks to Hagar again regarding her son Ishmael, Genesis 21:17-18.

Notice again, the ‘angel of the LORD’ speaks using the first person, He also presumes Himself to be God’s mouthpiece. He says, ‘I will make him into a great nation.’ Genesis 21:18.

The third mention of the ‘angel of the LORD,’ is found regarding Abraham and Isaac at Mount Moriah, Genesis 22:11-18.

Notice again, ‘the angel of the LORD’ uses the first person and assumes Himself to be none other than God Himself.

The fourth mention of the ‘angel of the LORD’, is found in Genesis 32:22-31 when Jacob has a wrestling match with Him.

Notice again, that Jacob names the place Peniel, saying that it was ‘because I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared.’ Genesis 32:30. Hosea 12:4-5 identifies the ‘angel of the LORD’ as God Himself.

The fifth mention of the ‘angel of the LORD’, is found in Exodus 3:1-6, where Moses comes face to face with a burning bush.

Notice that, ‘the angel of the LORD’, and ‘God’ are used interchangeably. The angel of the Lord describes Himself as ‘the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,’ Genesis 3:6.

Here are a few other texts which relate to Him, and a careful reading of each, will show us that the ‘angel of the LORD’, is actually a manifestation of God Himself, Numbers 22 / Joshua 5:13-15 / Judges 2:1-4 / Judges 6:11-24 / Judges 13:2-25.

I think the above Scriptures should be enough for us to understand, that the ‘angel of the LORD’, is none other than God Himself, in human form. The ‘angel of the Lord’ may well represent a Christophony, that is, a pre-incarnation appearance of the Christ.

It shouldn’t surprise us that God revealed Himself in human form, after all, God Himself came in human form in the form of Jesus, John 1:1-14.


Someone may ask if the ‘angel of the LORD’ was God Himself, how could that person still live, since the Scriptures teach that no one can see God and live?

It’s very common for people to read certain passages in Scripture and conclude that they contradict one another. However, those who take the time to look at these Scriptures a little deeper, know that the Scriptures nowhere contradict themselves. This is especially true when it comes to the Scriptures which relate to seeing ‘God’s face’.

Paul tells Timothy that ‘no one can see God’, 1 Timothy 6:16, but then Jesus says, ‘the pure in heart will see God’, Matthew 5:8. Is this a contradiction?

There are other Scriptures which appear to imply no one can see God, 1 Timothy 6:15-16 / 1 Timothy 1:17 / 1 John 4:12 / Exodus 33:20 / Deuteronomy 4:12. However, there are also Scriptures which appear to imply that we can see God, Genesis 32:30 / Job 19:26-27 / Matthew 5:8.

The only conclusion we can come to is that there are ways we can see God and there are ways we can’t see God.

We Can’t See God

God told Moses that he couldn’t see ‘His face and live’, Exodus 33:20, Jesus Himself said, that ‘no one has ever seen God’, John 1:18 / John 5:37 / John 6:46. Paul tells Timothy that one has ever seen God or can see God, 1 Timothy 6:15-16.

We must remember that God isn’t physical, He is a spirit, John 4:24, He hasn’t got a face any more than He has legs or arms. The descriptions of God having eyes, arms and legs, etc, are metaphors which help us understand God in human terms, Deuteronomy 33:27 / Genesis 6:8 / 2 Kings 19:16.

The point is that we can’t see Him with our physical eyes because He is invisible to the physical eye, Colossians 1:15 / 1 Timothy 1:17. There’s also a sense in which we can’t see God because we are simply too sinful, whereas He is just too glorious and holy, Isaiah 6:1-6. This is one reason why we need Christ to act as our Mediator, John 6:45-46 / 1 Timothy 2:5-6 / 1 John 2:1.

We Can See God

When it comes to seeing God, we know that Abraham saw God, Genesis 17:1 / Genesis 18:1. We also know that Moses saw God, Exodus 6:2-3, as did Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel, Exodus 24:9-11. Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson saw God, Judges 13:22. Stephen also saw God, Acts 7:2, although he was about to die physically.

We also see God when we look at Jesus, John 1:14 / John 1:18 / John 20:28 / 1 John 3:2. We can also see God in the sense that we see Him in and through the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

Seeing God’s Face And Live

There are many examples of people meeting God in the Scriptures, but we must remember that not all of them saw God’s ‘face’, Exodus 3:2 / Exodus 33:22 / Exodus 13:21 / Genesis 20:3 / Genesis 28:11-13 / 1 Kings 3:5.

God told Moses that ‘no one can see His face and live’, Exodus 33:20, yet we have Abraham, Genesis 18:22-33, and Jacob, Genesis 32:22-30, who lived afterwards and in the New Testament those who saw Jesus, who was God in the flesh, John 1:14 / John 1:18 / John 8:58 / John 14:8-9, lived to tell others about it.


Apart from those times when God physically appeared in human form to people, we must try and understand what the Hebrews meant when they used the term ‘seeing God’s face’.

The writers understood that this didn’t mean that they saw God in physical form, they understood the phrase ‘seeing God’s face’ as a metaphor for being in ‘the presence of God’.

Although Peter, James and John got a peek at God’s glory on the mountain, Matthew 17:1-9, they didn’t see His full glory. The Hebrews understood that no one could see God in the fullness of His glory and live, they understood that sinners can’t see God in His full glory. Sin and holiness just don’t go together, they can’t coexist in the same place, Isaiah 59:2.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ Matthew 5:8

The ‘heart’ is the centre of our thinking processes; it is the mind, Biblically speaking, Proverbs 23:7. The ‘pure in heart’ are those who are free from evil desires and purposes; their thoughts and speech are pure, Matthew 12:24. This is because they meditate on those things in which there is a virtue, Philippians 4:8.

Such people experience great joy in seeing God. Of course, they do not see Him physically since He is a Spirit being, John 4:24, but they do see Him through faith in Christ.

Most of the Jews, having their hearts defiled with carnal hopes or self-righteous pride, failed to see God as He revealed Himself in the person of His Son, John 14:6-9 / Matthew 13:14-17.

Not only do the ‘pure in heart’ see God here, but they shall also see Him ‘as He is’ hereafter.

‘Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.’ 1 John 3:2-3