The references to the “Angel of the LORD” in the Old Testament (mal-‘ak Yahweh מַלְאַךְ־ יְהוָ֖ה) are variously interpreted as consisting of several different angels, the same single angel (perhaps Michael the archangel), or even the pre-incarnate Jesus. Given that the answer still isn’t 100% crystal clear after 2,000 years of the Christian church I don’t anticipate to be able to crack that nut here – I’ll ask when I get to heaven. I will say a strong argument could be made for the latter case in Genesis 31:13 where the Angel of the Lord tells Jacob “I am the God of Bethel.” Being that there is only one God consisting of three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) one could logically conclude that this is Jesus (for more information on this, check out https://www.gotquestions.org/angel-of-the-Lord.html). On the other hand, perhaps it is an angel simply speaking word for word the direct message of God – again, don’t know, not going to try. What I do want to share, however, is three awe inspiring examples in the bible where the “Angel of the Lord” appeared.
1. The Angel of the Lord Says His Name is Incomprehensible and Ascends to Heaven in Flames (Judges 13)
In Judges 13, the Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife and tells her that though she is barren, she “shall conceive and bear a son” (Samson) and that “no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” Manoah prays to God for the angel to come back and he does so – appearing to his wife in the field. She runs and retrieves Manoah and dialogue is struck between them. Towards the end of the conversation, Manoah asks for his name. The Angel of the Lord responds thusly:
18 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” Judges 13:18 NKJV
The Hebrew word translated in the NKJV as “wonderful” is p̄e·li (פֶֽלִאי), which according to Strong’s concordance means: wonderful, incomprehensible.
The NLT thus translates the phrase like this: “It is too wonderful for you to understand.”
Now that’s a concept – the Angel of the Lord can’t even share his name because it would blow Manoah’s mind. It blows my mind just trying to imagine what kind of name would have that impact.
The Angel of the Lord declines Manoah’s offer for food, suggesting he offer the goat as a burnt offering instead. Manoah does so, then watches in awe as the “Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar”. Quite understandably so, “When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.”
2. The Angel of the Lord Makes a Donkey Speak (Numbers 22)
As the horde of Israelite slaves navigated the desert after their God-arranged escape from Egypt, their sheer size invoked fear in the surrounding nations. Balak – the Moabite King – was no exception. After seeing the Israelites crush the Amorites, Moab sends for Balaam to speak curses over the Israelites. As Balaam sets out with the Moabites, the Angel of the Lord appears three times along the trail – spooking Balaam’s donkey. The first time, the donkey turns away and runs into a field. Balaam beats the donkey and sets in back on the path. The second time, the donkey attempts to get to the side of the path, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall. Again, Balaam beats the donkey. The third time – with nowhere to go on the narrow trail – the donkey simply lays down. Furious, Balaam beats the donkey with his staff. The donkey reacts accordingly:
“Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’” Numbers 22:28 NKJV
Woah. Balaam responds:
29 “And Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!’” Numbers 22:29 NKJV
Interesting. I would have responded – Oh snap! A talking donkey!
The donkey replies back:
30 “So the donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?’” Numbers 22:29 NKJV
Now that’s a polite donkey.
At this point in time God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the Angel of the Lord standing in his way with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bows his head and fell flat on his face (see a pattern here?). He admonishes Balaam for beating his donkey, saying that he would have killed Balaam were it not for the donkey turning aside. Balaam confesses his sin and listens to the instructions to speak only what he is directed concerning the Israelites. Thus, when he arrives to speak curses over the Israelites, he instead declares nothing but blessings – much to the fury of King Balak.
It’s wild to think that the donkey could see the Angel of the Lord when nobody else could. Makes you wonder what’s going on when your dog is apparently barking at nothing…or when birds and animals “sense” upcoming volcanic eruptions… random speculations here. Zero theological basis.
Note: if you are confused by the apparent contradiction between God “permitting Balaam to go” in verse 20 and HIs anger being aroused in verse 22 – so was I. There’s a good article that explains it here: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=6&article=4829.
3. The Angel of the Lord Grills Up Some Goat Steaks for Gideon (Judges 6)
Though Joshua did well to keep the Israelites within the protection of God’s covenant – the subsequent generations deteriorated into sin and wickedness. As the Israelites continued to depart from God’s command, God allowed the Midianites to overwhelm and oppress them for seven years – destroying their crops and livestock. It was under these conditions that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon:
11 Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Judges 6:11-12 NKJV
Note to self…encourage my wife to address me at all times as “mighty man of valor”.
The Angel of the Lord proceeds to explain that he will use Gideon to deliver Israel from the hand of the midianites. Ever the one to double check, Gideon asks:
17 Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. 18 Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.” Judges 6:17-18 NKJV
The Angel of the Lord obliges, and Gideon prepares a young goat and unleavened bread, laying them out on a rock.
21 Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. Judges 6:21 NKJV
Now that’s how you could make some heavenly fire baked pizza.
Terrible pun aside, the act galvanized Gideon to tear down his father’s Baal worshipping alter and erect one instead for Yahweh – the first act of his assigned duty to deliver Israel from Midianite oppression.
So there you go! Three encounters with the Angel of the Lord. Hope you enjoyed. Certainly helps me to remember I serve a God that is so unbelievably powerful that I cannot hope to fathom all His glorious ways.
-Nicolas C. Day
 Judges 13:5
 In the KJV: “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it [is] secret?
 Judges 13:20
 Numbers 21