The Angel of the LORD and Abraham (Genesis 22)

This article is another of our studies on the mysterious character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will quickly become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in these posts is to demonstrate how the Scriptures present the angel of the LORD as divine and thus to show that he prefigures Jesus Christ. Then I also want to discover what characteristics the angel of the LORD displays and how Jesus manifested this in His earthly ministry. Finally, an objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).


Genesis 22 is one of the most memorable chapters in the Old Testament. It begins when God calls Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, to Moriah “to offer him there as a burnt offering.” In an act of supreme devotion and obedience, Abraham painstakingly makes all the preparations for the burnt offering and travels to the place of sacrifice. He arranges the wood, places his son Isaac on the altar and raises the knife to slay his son. It is at that point that the angel of the LORD (AOTL) appears in the scene. Our study will go through Genesis 22:11-18.

11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 

COMMENTS: The AOTL calls Abraham by name just as God had called Abraham (22:1). The duplication of verses is significant and is meant to communicate that the two speakers are virtually the same. This would suggest that the AOTL calls Abraham as God.

Notice also that the AOTL spoke from heaven. (22:15 also) Only God speaks to man from heaven. The “from heaven” is an important clue to the deity of the AOTL.

Abraham immediately recognizes the voice of the AOTL and responds the same way that he did to God. (See 22:1) This is significant.

12 He said, “Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now, I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 

COMMENTS: VERY IMPORTANT POINT – The AOTL commands Abraham NOT TO DO something that God had commanded him to do. God alone has the authority to change God’s commands. A mere angel has no such authority (or ability, for that matter).

Observe that the AOTL is certainly the one speaking in this verse, because he does not make any reference to God or to the LORD. Therefore, it is the AOTL who judges Abraham’s obedience (“I know that you fear God”), and it is from the AOTL (“from Me”) that Abraham has not withheld his son, his only son. But we know that it was God who had called Abraham to, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt offering (22:2).” The obvious conclusion is that the AOTL is God.

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in the place of his son.

COMMENTS: The AOTL provides a substitute. Although it is not explicitly stated, the implication is that, because the AOTL prevented the burnt offering of Isaac, it was the AOTL who provided the ram for the burnt offering. Instead of the sacrifice of Abraham’s beloved son, the LORD (22:14) provides a substitute.

Here, on this mountain, the beloved son is spared, and the substitute is sacrificed, but in the future on another mountain, the beloved Son is sacrificed AS the substitute and the sinners are set free. This provision of a substitute for sacrifice unmistakably foreshadows the death of Christ.

14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

COMMENTS: Abraham calls that place “The LORD Will Provide,” but the AOTL was the one who had provided the ram of the sacrifice. There is intentional ambiguity here as to who is providing, because, by that ambiguity, the Scripture is communicating to us that the AOTL is, in fact, divine.

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 

COMMENTS: Why did the LORD Himself not speak to Abraham from heaven? Before it waws always the LORD who had spoken to Abraham. Why now the AOTL twice? This is done to present the divinity of the AOTL, that He is like the LORD.

16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 

COMMENTS: Once again, it is intentionally ambiguous who is speaking here. It is clear that the words come from the AOTL (22:15), but whose words are they? Is the AOTL speaking FOR the LORD, or is he speaking AS the LORD? That is, when the AOTL says, “declares the LORD,” is he giving the real source of the words, or is he stating his identity?

When the AOTL says, “By Myself I have sworn,” are the first-person singular pronouns referring to him or to the LORD? Again, intentional ambiguity.

The most natural way to read 22:16 is as a continuation of 22:12.

In 22:12, the AOTL says, “since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me.”

In 22:16, the AOTL says, “because . . . you have not withheld your son, your only son.”

In 22:12, it is certain the AOTL is speaking for himself. I can discern no reason not to think that the AOTL is also speaking for Himself in 22:16. That being the case, we must conclude that the AOTL is speaking AS the LORD. Once again, we reach the conclusion that the AOTL is divine.

17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand, which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

COMMENTS: The AOTL says, “I will greatly bless you,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 12:2. The AOTL says, “I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 15:5. The AOTL says, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 12:3 and 18:18. The AOTL speaks with all the authority of the LORD, as if he is the LORD. He repeats and confirms what the LORD has already said.


In these eight verses in Genesis 22 we have seen many reasons that suggest that the angel of the LORD is divine, as somehow related to God and the LORD, and yet also distinct from either of them.

The AOTL speaks with all the authority of the LORD. In fact, often it is impossible to determine whether the AOTL is speaking purely for Himself or if he is just communicating the words of the LORD to us.

The AOTL has authority to issue divine commands and to correctly declare the truth of all Scripture.  

The AOTL provides a substitutionary sacrifice.

The wonder is that, when we see that angel of the LORD, we see an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. He is the one who speaks with all the authority of the LORD. When Jesus speaks, God speaks. Jesus has the authority to issue divine commands and to rightly apply all of God’s commands. At His word, all discussion ceases. And finally, Jesus was the one who would offer Himself not as a burnt offering, but as a sin offering on the cross as a substitute for all the sinners who would believe in Him.

SDG                 rmb                 3/9/2021

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