Who is the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament?
The angel of the Lord is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. We want to briefly answer the question as to his identity.
Let’s read the beginning of the report of the burning bush:
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. (Exod. 3:1–7 NIV)
The name of God “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” (exact spelling unknown) denotes God, our heavenly Father, and is translated as “Lord”.
God was within the burning bush (verse 4) and spoke to Moses. Moses was afraid to look at God whom he saw (see also Exod. 4:1+5). He saw God (in Hebrew “elohim”); it is not written that he would had seen Yahweh. By the way, “elohim” in Hebrew is a plural word, indicating that it may be referring to the Trinity.
Later Yahweh said to Moses: “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exod. 33:20); so it is not possible that Yahweh would had shown him his face. It is written here that he saw God and not that he would had seen a part of God; so I do not believe that he saw a part of Yahweh like his back or a part of his front. Further, if he had seen Yahweh (or a part of him), he would not have asked Yahweh later “show me your glory” (Exod. 33:18). Later Moses was greatly honored by Yahweh passing by and allowing him to gaze upon him (Exod. 33:19–23).
Moses didn’t see Yahweh in the bush, but he saw God. So whom did he see? I only know one who comes into question: Jesus is God (Isa. 9:5; Ps. 45:7+8 with Heb. 1:8+9; Isa. 40:3 with Mt. 3:3; Ps. 50:6 or Ps. 82:1+8 with Jn. 5:22) and he already existed “before the creation of the world” (Jn. 17:24; Jn. 1:1–3 with 1 Jn. 1:1 or Rev. 19:13).
So Jesus is the angel of the Lord.
There is another piece of evidence for this: The angel of the Lord announced the birth of Samson, informed his parents about his calling and instructed them. Then Samson’s father Manoah sacrificed a burnt offering to Yahweh and the following happened:
20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. 22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!” (Judg. 13: 20–22 NIV)
Manoah realized that they did not just see an angel sent by Yahweh, but even God. He realized: The angel of the Lord is God.