6. The Messenger of YHVH

Can the Jewish people see Christ in the Old Testament?

the Angel of His presence (face) saved them
He put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them

Isaiah 63:9, 11

The Apostle’s message of Christ in the Old Testament may be appealing to Christians, but how about the Jewish people? Can they see Christ in the Old Testament, without referring to the New Testament?

Yes of course they can.

This was the effort of Justin Martyr’s famous book, written in 135 A.D., A Dialogue with Tryphos, a Jew.

Justin Martyr challenged the Jewish people of his day with the questions: Why did Jacob call an Angel, the “Messenger of YHVH,” his God? How can one who is sent, really be God? For the One who sent Him must be greater than Him?

This was also Christ’s message to the Jewish people:

“No one is greater than the One who sent Him.

The Father is greater than I.”

John 13:16, 14:28

The Hebrew expression “Malak” מַלְאַ֣ךְ, which we translate as “Angel,” simply means messenger in Hebrew. Except for its translation of an “Angel” in the expression Angel of YHVH, “Malak” only means messenger. As far as we know, “the Messenger of God” appeared as a human being, and not as an Angel “with wings.”

Justin asked: Can God be the “Messenger of God”? Who was this Messenger of God, which would be the Redeemer?

The Spirit of Christ was only “manifest” as the Angel of YHVH

Before we explain the Spirit of Christ as the “Angel” or “Messenger” of God in the Old Testament, we need to clarify that the Spirit of Christ was only “manifest” in the form of a Messenger.

The Angel of YHVH is only one of the manifestations of the Spirit of Christ.

There are five primary manifestations of the Spirit of Christ in the Bible:

  • as the Spirit of ELOHIM, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament;
  • as the Word;
  • as the Image of the Invisible God;
  • as the Angel of YHVH, “WHO IS LIKE GOD,” to be the ruler of the Angels; and
  • as the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, to be the ruler of the Kings of the Earth.

In Chapter 31 (The LORD’s Day), we will study Revelation Chapter 1, and we will “see” the Spirit of Christ appearing in all five of these manifestations.

The Appearances of the Angel or “Messenger” of YHVH

It is easy to find the appearances of the Angel of YHVH. We only need to use a Hebrew lexicon and look at the references of the Hebrew word Malak”—מַלְאַ֣ךְ—meaning “Angel” or, more properly, “Messenger.”

The first 44 occurrences of the phrase “Malak” are all in the first seven Books of the Bible, and they all refer to the Spirit of Christ, as we will see. But after the first seven Books, the word “Malak” מַלְאַ֣ךְ is often used simply to mean “Messenger.” This is the original meaning of the word.

After the Book of Judges, the Angel of YHVH speaks on two more occasions, to Elijah, telling him to “arise and eat” (1 Kings 19:7); and to “Go down and not be afraid” (2 Kings 1:15). The next time we hear the Angel speak is in Zechariah.

The Book of Zechariah is a good place to understand the Angel of YHVH. In the first six chapters of Zechariah, the Angel of YHVH is called “the Angel who spoke with me.” This is similar to the Book of Revelation, where the Angel who guides John has different “appearances” but is always the Angel of YHVH. In Zechariah 1:12, we see the Angel of YHVH, the YHVH of the Armies (Angels) praying to the invisible God, calling Him “YHVH of the ARMIES (Angels)!” Zechariah 3:1–2 identifies the “Angel of YHVH” as the Archangel, or ruler of the Angels, who appears in Revelation 1:10–16, and 12:7. Zechariah 4 identifies the Seven Spirits of God: the “seven eyes of YHVH which range to and fro throughout the earth,” in Revelation 5:6. These are the seven stars that the Archangel holds in His hand in Revelation 1:16.

We summarize all the occurrences of the word “Malak” in the first seven Books and Zechariah below. We will discuss all of them. They are all instrumental to prove that the “Messenger of YHVH,” was a YHVH, but not the one true God, the YHVH in the heavens.

The First 44 Occurrences of the Hebrew Word “Malak” מַלְאַ֣ךְ—“the Angel”
Genesis 16:7, 9, 10, 11 (4) The Angel of YHVH is called YHVH, and Hagar calls the Angel, God.
Genesis 21:17 The Angel of God appears to Hagar and addresses God in the third person and then says He will make a great nation of Hagar’s child.
Genesis 22:11, 15 (2) The Angel of YHVH speaks as God to Abraham.
Genesis 31:11 The Angel of YHVH identifies Himself as the God who appeared to Jacob at Bethel.
Exodus 3:2 The Angel of YHVH appears to Moses as the ELOHIM of Jacob (Israel).
Exodus 14:19 The Angel of YHVH in the fire and cloud equated to YHVH.
Exodus 33:2 Compare with Exodus 23:20–23, “My name is in Him.”
Numbers 20:16 He sent the Angel and brought us out of Egypt.
Numbers 22:22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 31; 32; 34; 35 (10) The Angel of YHVH, becomes ELOHIM and then YHVH.
Judges 2:1–4 (2) The Angel of YHVH says, “I brought you out of Egypt.”
Judges 5:23 Deborah, a prophetess (Judges 4:4), presumably speaks this message from the Angel (Spirit) of YHVH.
Judges 6:11–22 (6) Gideon realizes he has seen the Angel of YHVH, and YHVH says “do not worry you will not die.”
Judges 13:3–21 (12) The Angel appears to Samson’s father, who says “we will die. or we have seen ELOHIM.”
The Hebrew Word “Malak” מַלְאַ֣ךְ—“the Angel” in Zechariah
Zechariah 1:12 The Angel of YHVH calls God the YHVH of Hosts.
Zechariah 3:1 and 6 The Angel of YHVH, as YHVH, says, “YHVH rebuke you” to Satan.
The Hebrew Word “Hammalak” הַמַּלְאָךְ֩—“the Angel” in Zechariah
Zechariah 1:13, 19; 2:3; 4:1; 4:3; 4:5; 5:5; 5:10; 6; 4 The Angel who was speaking with me
Zechariah 3:3 Standing before the Angel
Zechariah 6:5 The Angel answered me

The Appearances of the “Messenger of YHVH” prove that ELOHIM was not the Invisible God

But so much is written for the sake of proving that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God and His Apostle, being of old the Word, and appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race.

Justin Martyr, 110–165 A.D.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Justin Martyr said that so much has been written in the scriptures to prove Jesus Christ as the Word of Old, the speaker, and “Messenger” for the one true God. But unfortunately, through the deception of Satan in the fourth century, this message was lost.

The manifestation of the Spirit of Christ, as the Angel of YHVH, dispels any argument that the appearance of ELOHIM in the Old Testament was only a “theophany” or image. The Angel of YHVH has a real identity of His own, which continues to the end of the Bible.

The Angel of YHVH normally spoke the words of the invisible God, as “the Word,” but on some occasions, He spoke from His own identity. These are in Genesis 21:17; Exodus 6:3; Judges 13:16–19; Joshua 5:14; and Zechariah 1:11–12, and 3:1. These accounts prove that the Angel of YHVH was not the one true God.

We look at some of these passages below, so that you will know that “the Messenger of YHVH” was a YHVH, the ELOHIM of Israel (Jacob) who appeared to Moses, and that He was not “the invisible God,” YHVH who resides in the heavens.

Genesis 16:7 to 13, Hagar said, “I have seen Him (the ELOHIM) who sees me”

The first identified appearance of the Angel, or “Messenger of YHVH,” is in Genesis 16.

This was only the first time that He was identified as “the Messenger of YHVH.” In Exodus 6:2–3, “the Messenger” told Moses that He had appeared to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob “as God Almighty.” In fact, He was the ELOHIM who had appeared to all.

He always appeared in human form.

In Genesis 16, Hagar saw the “Messenger of YHVH.”

“Now the Angel of YHVH found her (Hagar) by a spring of water in the wilderness . . . and He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid . . . where are you going? . . . Behold you are with child, and you shall bear a Son . . . And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.’”

Haggar identified the Messenger as “God” in the next verse: “Then she called the name of YHVH who spoke to her, You-are-the-ELOHIM-who-Sees, for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”

Genesis 21:17: The Angel of YHVH spoke as God, and spoke of God

In Genesis 16, Hagar confessed that she had seen God as the Angel or “Messenger.” But in Genesis 21, the Angel spoke of God in the third person, and then He spoke “as God.”

The Angel of God called out to her and said,

“What is the matter with you Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”

Is the Angel going to make a great nation of Hagar’s son? Of course not; the Spirit of Christ, as “the Word,” is speaking the words of the invisible God.

Genesis 22:11 and 12, the Angel spoke to Abraham as God

In this famous story, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only begotten son.

We read:

But the Angel of YHVH called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

So he said, “Here I am.”

And He (the Messenger) said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Here we can see that the Messenger speaks as God again.

Genesis 31:10–13, The Angel of God spoke as God

In Genesis 31: 10–13, Jacob had a dream, and saw “the Angel of God” who said to him, “I am the ELOHIM of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar . . . return to the land of your birth.” Jacob recognized that the Angel was speaking the words of the invisible God. This is proved in Genesis 32:9, where he said, “O YHVH, who said to me, ’return to your land.’” At this time, no one knew the name of the Angel (see Genesis 32:27 and Exodus 6:3), therefore Jacob definitely understood that the Angel was speaking for God, the unseen YHVH.

Exodus 13:21, and 14:19, the Angel of YHVH was called YHVH

YHVH, and the Angel of YHVH, are equated as the one in the pillar of fire and cloud, as we read in Exodus 13:21 and 14:19:

YHVH was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night . . .

The Angel of YHVH, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.

Exodus 23:21 and 33:2, The name of God is in the Angel

In Chapter 11, we will discuss God’s message of Exodus 23:21, which compared the Angel of YHVH to Joshua (Jesus):

Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.

The promise of sending an Angel is repeated in Exodus 33:2, also using the phrase “Malak” for Angel.

In Zechariah 1:12, which we discuss below, we will see that the Angel of YHVH, the YHVH of the Armies, prays to the invisible God, calling Him “YHVH of the ARMIES (Angels)!” The message of the Old and New Testament is that the invisible God bears the name of His image.

Numbers 22:35; 23:4 and 16, the Angel of YHVH was called ELOHIM and YHVH

In these three verses, the One who meets with Balaam is alternatively described as the Angel of YHVH, ELOHIM, and YHVH: “But the Angel of YHVH said to Balaam, “Go with the men . . . .”

“Now ELOHIM met Balaam.”

“Then YHVH met Balaam and put a word in his mouth . . .”

Judges 2:1–4, the Angel of YHVH said, “I brought you out of Egypt”

In this passage, the Angel of YHVH told them that He was the “God” who led them out of Egypt:

Now the Angel of YHVH came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And He said: ‘I brought you up out Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers, and I said ’I will never break My covenant with you’ . . .”

Here, the Angel is referring to the covenant He mentioned in Exodus 6:4. In the passage of Exodus 6:4, the Angel of YHVH clearly spoke from the perspective of the Angel. This began in verse 3: “I appeared to Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name, YHVH, I was not known to them.”

The Angel of YHVH established Himself as the “God of Israel.” We will look at this again in Chapter 8.

Judges 5:23, The Angel of YHVH became as the Spirit of YHVH

In the final appearances of the Angel of YHVH as the speaker for God, we see a transition from the identity of the Angel of YHVH as the speaker, to the Spirit of YHVH as the speaker.

As time went on, “the Messenger” ceased to appear and speak and prophecies were made by His Invisible Spirit. The prophetess Deborah (see Judges 4:4) seems to speak prophetically in her song, singing:

“Curse Menoz,” said the Angel of YHVH.

There is no reason to believe the Angel of YHVH appeared to say this. Rather this seems to be the prophetic speaking of Deborah.

Judges 6:11–24, The Angel of YHVH was called YHVH

In this meeting of the Angel of YHVH with Gideon, the Angel was called “YHVH” several times.

In verse 12, we read that the Angel of YHVH appeared to Gideon and said, “YHVH is with you.” But Gideon did not recognize Him as “the Angel of YHVH” until the “Messenger of YHVH” “vanished” in verse 21. Gideon did not see “an Angel” but “a person” who he cooked for.

After Gideon replied to “the Messenger” in verse 14, “YHVH looked at him” and said, “Go in all your strength.” The proof that the YHVH mentioned was the Messenger, comes next.

In verse 16, YHVH said to Gideon, “Certainly I WILL BE with you.” These are the exact same Hebrew words the Angel spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:12 at the burning bush. The words of the invisible God.

Gideon recognized this and said, “show me a sign that it is You who speak to me. Please do not depart from here, until I come back . . .” And He (YHVH) said, ‘I will remain until you return.’” Of course, these words prove that Messenger of YHVH is the one who spoke as YHVH, because in verse 19, Gideon returned and gave food to the Messenger, who touched it with His staff and it burst into flame.

Verse 23 appears to be an answer to Gideon’s prayer to God, after he realized that he really saw the Angel of YHVH. “YHVH said to him (presumably in the Spirit), “Peace . . . you shall not die.”

Judges 13:21–22, the Angel of YHVH was ELOHIM to Manoah

Judges 13:21–22 is very similar to Judges 6:22–23. Manoah, the father of Samson, called the Angel ELOHIM: “Then Manoah knew that he was the Angel of YHVH. So Manoah said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, for we have seen ELOHIM.’”

In verse 16, the Angel spoke from His own identity, saying, “Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to YHVH.”

This is quite funny. The Angel warned Manoah after Gideon’s experience of making food. The Messenger of God had appeared in human form again, and was “very awesome” (v. 6).

And again, He burnt up the food.

Then, Manoah realized that it was truly “the Angel of YHVH” and asked, “What is Your name?” Of course, from the naming of the Angel at the burning bush, the Israelites knew the name of the Angel as “He WILL BE.” But Manaoh’s statement showed that Manoah believed YHVH, “He WILL BE,” was not a real name. For even in Jesus’ Day, the Israelites believed their God was nameless; as related to us by Justin Martyr.

Manoah called the Angel of YHVH, “ELOHIM” and he was also very aware that there was another YHVH, who was the one true God. The unseen YHVH was the one whom the Messenger asked Manoah to make an offering to.

2 Chronicles 3:1, the Angel of YHVH with the sword is called YHVH

The Angel of YHVH, who appeared at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite in 2 Samuel 24:16, and 1 Chronicles 21:15, was called “YHVH” in 2 Chronicles 3:1.

Zechariah 1:11–12, The Angel of the YHVH addressed God as the “YHVH of Armies”

“Then the Angel of YHVH answered and said, ‘O YHVH of Armies, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?’”

One might think, from Isaiah 6, and Joshua 5, that the “YHVH of Hosts” is only the name of the Spirit of Christ. But, Zechariah 1:11–12 shows us that “YHVH of the Armies” is another shared name of the invisible God and His image. We can also see this in Isaiah 51:15 and Jeremiah 31:35 and 32:18. The Armies of heaven, as we discussed in Chapter 1, are the Armies of the Angels, but here the Angel of YHVH, who is the YHVH of the Armies, addressed the invisible God as the YHVH of the Armies!

Zechariah 3:1, 2 YHVH said to Satan, “YHVH rebuke you, Satan”

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of YHVH, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And YHVH said to Satan, ‘YHVH rebuke you, Satan!’”

There are only three present in this scene: Joshua, the Angel of YHVH, and Satan, and so it is obvious that the Angel of YHVH was speaking as YHVH to Satan, saying, “YHVH rebuke you.”

The Angel of YHVH, here, was not speaking the words of the invisible God. He was a real Spirit, who spoke from His position as the Angel of YHVH to Satan. The Angel of YHVH was not a “theophany.”

Here again, the Angel of YHVH is clearly identified as another YHVH.

To summarize what we learned about the “the Messenger,” or “Angel of YHVH”:

  • he was called ELOHIM,
  • he was called YHVH, and
  • he was not God, but
  • he spoke as God.

We will especially want to take notice of the occasions where the Messenger speaks as “Himself” in one sentence and then “as God” in the next.

When God sends His Angel, His Messenger, to John in the Book of Revelation, the Messenger, the Spirit of Christ, does this again. But in Revelation, the Spirit of Christ will speak as “the Son Man” as “the Angel,” and as “God.” This becomes very interesting, especially in the last chapter, where the Messenger, speaking as “God,” says: “I, Jesus, sent My Angel.”

In the next two chapters, we will see how God made the Messenger, “the God of Jacob,” and then named Him “YHVH ELOHIM” when He appeared to Moses at the burning bush. And we will learn that “the Messenger” also appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as “God Almighty.” He appeared to men and Angels, as the “image of the invisible God” and as “the Word.”

Then in Chapter 14, we will find out that the “Angel of YHVH” was called “WHO IS LIKE GOD” by another Angel.