Angel of Jehovah
I have been digging deeper and am not aware how the connection was first made by early Christians to view ‘the Angel of Jehovah’ or ‘Angel of the Covenant’ to be a pre-human appearance of Messiah, but I have found one place that makes me see an arguable connection.
The connection is based on the connection of various ‘human forms’ that God visited his people. A connection cannot be made to previous Rabbinic views, apart from the idea that the Rabbis “regarded Him as the Shechinah, or visible presence of God, - the same as appeared in the pillar of the cloud and of fire, and afterwards in the temple, in the most holy place.” (Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Volume 1). Regardless if this Rabbinic historical view can be verified or not, the fact that this Angel appears at various stages of the Covenant history of Israel, it is certainly not a regular angel.
The place that I find an easy argument to be made in connecting this Angel to the ‘human form’ that God often used in visions is in the story of Samson. For references about the ‘human form’ see this post, or this post.
In Judges Chapter 13 we find the story of Samson’s extaordinary birth.
2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.
6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome.
Here the woman describes him as a man but also like an angel. So we have a connection to the human form.
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “ O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” 11 And Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.”
Again we see the Angel of the Lord described as ‘the man of God’ or 'the man' who the angels says he was that 'man'.
17 And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”
Now this seems to make the connection much more indestructible, and not just a fanciful imagination. The angel's name is ‘Wonderful’. One can’t help but make a connection from here to Isaiah 9:6.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
So it seems although there is no argument to be made that ancient believers under the Old Testament perceived the Messiah represented in the form of ‘the Angel of the Lord’ we can see from a post Jesus perspective that it may be a valid interpretation.
I think this tips the scales for me and I accept this view.
I should add the biggest counter argument for me was that many who hold this view also claim it was Jesus as 'the finger of God' who wrote the ten commands on the tablets in Exodus 31:18 but I could never believe this as Hebrews 2:2 specifically assigns the giving of the Law to angels. Yet now this does not cast doubt for me as the phrase ‘Angel of the Lord’ does not show up anywhere near this period.