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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Angel of the Lord (Jahweh)

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ANGEL OF THE LORD (JAHWEH) , called also the ‘Angel of God.’ He occupies a special and unique position; he is not merely one among the angels, albeit a great one, but one sui generis , in a special way Jahweh’s representative among men. He may be regarded as in some sense the guardian-angel of the nation of Israel, in that he appears to be the nation’s representative at important crises ( e.g. Genesis 22:11 ; Genesis 22:15 ff., Exodus 3:2 ; Exodus 14:19 ; Exodus 23:23 , Numbers 22:22 , Jdg 6:11 , 2 Kings 1:3 , Zechariah 1:9 ).

He appears in human form, and most of the characteristics of angels generally are his. The main difficulty with regard to him is that while in some passages he is identified with Jahweh Himself ( e.g. Genesis 48:15-16 , Judges 6:11-24 ), in others there is a distinct differentiation, ( e.g. Genesis 16:11 ; Genesis 21:17 ; Genesis 24:7 ; in this last he is spoken of as having been sent from Jahweh); this differentiation becomes more and more marked in the later books ( e.g. Zechariah 1:12 ). The contradiction here presented can be adequately explained only on the supposition that the evolution of thought on the subject must have run somewhat on the following lines. From the earliest angelology of the Hebrews, itself the offspring of still earlier Animistic conceptions (see Angel), there emerged the figure of Jahweh; originally, i.e. long before the time of Moses, Jahweh must, in the popular mind, have been regarded as belonging to the angelic host, and by degrees He assumed a more and more exalted position; as subjective revelation increased, the more fully did the personality of Jahweh become realized, and His superiority to the angels recognized, though in the process it was inevitable that the differentiation should not always be complete. When ultimately, under the Mosaic dispensation, the holy character and the real nature of Jahweh began to be apprehended, the belief that He personally appeared among men necessarily became more and more untenable; hence, while Jahweh Himself receded further from men, His messenger, or angel, appeared in His stead, and became His representative in all His dealings with men. What must have been such a revolution in the time-honoured faith would meet with many retrograde movements before it finally triumphed, as is shown by such passages as Judges 6:19 ff. Some such process must be predicated in order to understand the otherwise unaccountable contradiction referred to above.

The angel of the Lord spoken of in the NT ( e.g. Matthew 1:20 , Luke 2:9 ) must not be confounded with the OT ‘Angel of Jahweh’; an OT parallel is to be found rather in such a passage as Zechariah 3:6-7 , where the angel is one of a kind, not the only one of his kind.

W. O. E. Oesterley.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Angel of the Lord (Jahweh)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/a/angel-of-the-lord-jahweh.html. 1909.

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