How many times have we read in the bible where angels of the Lord were sent to people? They went to Abraham, to Jacob, to the mother of Shimson (Samson), to Gideon, to Miryam (Mary), and to many others. And when we read the narrative, how often does it go from “..and the angel said..” to “..and God said …”, over and over, back and forth, from angel to God to angel. So, nu?- who’s really talking?
I have heard many arguments from both sides (it is God/it is an angel of God), and I don’t believe anyone can be absolutely sure, in many of these cases, if it was God or an angel, or both. But, I have a theory I would like to share that may help put this argument to rest.
Angels are messengers of God, right? As such, they deliver what God wants to say to people on earth. Now, when we have a message to deliver, we can do it one of two ways: we can memorize it and deliver it verbatim, or we can paraphrase the message and deliver the gist of it.
My theory is that when the bible says that an angel of the Lord went to someone, it was an angel. The angel is sent by God to deliver a message, which it generally delivers in its own words. However, at times the angel will say exactly what God told it to say, word for word, and when it does that the narrative goes from third person to first person.
For instance, in Genesis 18 when the three men appeared to Abraham before destroying Sodom, it is apparent that one of them was the Lord in human form, because the language of the third man, and the fact that He was referred to as God when He decided to stay behind to talk to Abraham, states clearly this was God. The other two men were angels, and that is verified in the next chapter which starts telling us the two angels arrived in Sodom. The third man must have been the Lord, Himself, who did not go to Sodom.
But, in Genesis 32:25-32 Jacob wrestles with an angel, who when asked what his name is (by Jacob) rebukes Jacob for asking. The Hebrew text has the word Elohim, which is God, although some translations have “divine being”, i.e. an angel. So, then, did an angel change Jacob’s name or did God? And how could a mere mortal wrestle with God and prevail?
As an aside, in Judges 13 when Manoa (the father of Samson) asked the angel what his name was, he was also told he shouldn’t ask for it. In that case it is clear this was an angel, although Manoa believes that he and his wife saw God.
Some other references are:
- Genesis 16:7-14 (Angel speaks to Hagar)
- Exodus 3:2-4 (Angel appears as burning bush)
- Numbers 22:22-38 (Angel appears to Balaam)
There are other places in the bible where this happens, and if you are curious I say, “Go for it!” and check every biblical reference of an angel talking to someone where interchangeably God is also talking to them. I think, overall, my theory will still fit.
The angel is, as I said above, a messenger, and so as such it can be speaking on it’s own or speaking directly from God. When it speaks on it’s own, it is delivering the message, and when we read that “..God said..” it is speaking exactly what God told it to say, so (effectively) it is the same as if God, Himself, were speaking those words.
This may or may not be something you agree with, or it may be something that inspires you to scream, “Steve- you are totally wrong!” Either way, that’s OK with me because it is my way of explaining that which no one has really ever explained to everyone’s satisfaction. At least, not that I have heard.
Whether you agree or not, I hope that I have generated something for you to think about.