Is Jesus the Angel of the Lord?

Scripture is much clearer on this matter than we sometimes think.

As Christians, we must confess that God has always been triune. The Son did not come into being at Matthew 1. He always existed in the form of God (Phil 2:6). And this ontological reality means that we must read Scripture (the Old Testament) as Christians to see the one God act according to his triune nature. The nature of God and the revelation of Jesus Christ requires us to read the Old Testament differently than we would before Christ came.

 

The Angel of the Lord has fascinated and confused many readers of Scripture. At times, he seems like nothing else than an angelic being sent by the LORD. At other times, his identity becomes mixed with the LORD and speaks with the voice of God.

While some confusion of the details is inevitable, Scripture is much clearer on this matter than we sometimes think. I want to argue that the Angel of the Lord is unambiguously Jesus.

The Name of YHWH Is in the Angel

Perhaps the most important passage in Scripture to understand the angel’s identity is Exodus 23. Here, the LORD (YHWH) himself reveals the nature and activity of his angel: 

Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. (Exod 23:20–21)

In this passage, YHWH affirms that he will send “an angel” before Israel to guard them on the way to Canaan. In particular, Israel should “pay attention” and “obey” the angel. They should not “rebel” against the angel because the angel “will not pardon” their transgression. The implication being that the angel can forgive their transgression

Lastly, and I think most importantly, God has given the angel particular authority because “my name is in him” (Exod 23:21). The phrase “in him” translates the Hebrew word bikirbo, which often refers to entrails or inward parts (HALOT, s.v. קֶרֶב). It can also refer to the dwelling of God among the people of Israel (other senses are also possible). In this case, the sense of the phrase likely overlaps somewhat with both possibilities. 

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