In Genesis 16} When Hagar runs away from Sarai and is crying in the wilderness an Angel of the Lord appears to her. Now I know there are instances in Joshua and even later in Abraham's story where 'one like the Son of Man' appears in human form. My question is if this angel that appeared to Hagar is the Lord or just a messenger?

My main curiosity is because the angel itself says "I will make your son Ishmael a father to a great nation and he will hold his fist against his kin..." My question is how can the angel claim to make such a promise that so closely mirrors YHWH's promise to Abram regarding Isaac? Is God extending his blessing to both of Abram's children?

  • The Hebrew is מַלְאָך malakh "messenger", very often used for servants of divine or even human rulers. Even a non-angelic being speaking for God, e.g. a prophet, can be a malakh. That said, it is sometimes used of what seems to be the theophanic angel, e.g. Exodus 3:2, in which "the angel malakh of the Lord" appears within a bush but in the next couple of verses God speaks from within the bush. So disputes about the word "messenger" should really not sway you one way or the other. – Luke Sawczak May 11 at 5:12

I believe your question is whether the messenger was speaking on behalf of himself or on behalf of God and if he is speaking on behalf of himself does that indicate that the messenger was divine? And if divine and speaking for himself, are two persons blessing or is the second person merely relating the words of YHVH?

Trinitarian commentator Adam Clarke extrapolates out from verse 10 that God is plural:

3d. The angel of Jehovah. This phrase is especially employed to denote the Lord himself in that form in which he condescends to make himself manifest to man; for the Lord God says of this angel, “Beware of him, and obey his voice; provoke him not, for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in his inmost” Exo_23:21; that is, my nature is in his essence. Accordingly, he who is called the angel of the Lord in one place is otherwise denominated the Lord or God in the immediate context (Gen_16:7, Gen_16:13; Gen_22:11-12; Gen_31:11, Gen_31:13; Gen_48:15-16; Exo_3:2-15; Exo_23:20-23; with Exo_33:14-15). It is remarkable, at the same time, that the Lord is spoken of in these cases as a distinct person from the angel of the Lord, who is also called the Lord. The phraseology intimates to us a certain inherent plurality within the essence of the one only God, of which we have had previous indications Gen_1:26; Gen_3:22. The phrase “angel of the Lord,” however, indicates a more distant manifestation to man than the term Lord itself. It brings the medium of communication into greater prominence. It seems to denote some person of the Godhead in angelic form.

However, I find it more in line with Occam's Razor to simply accept the scripture's designation of the messenger as just that: a messenger. A messenger often speaks in the first person when relaying the words of God. In fact, if you listen to a few sermons or scan a few prophets or epistles you'll see that it is common there as well.

This dictionary supplies the following as the primary gloss for "messenger":

Definition of messenger 1 : one who bears a message or does an errand: such as a archaic : forerunner, herald b : a dispatch bearer in government or military service c : an employee who carries messages https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/messenger

I see no need to make more of it than that.

Your question I believe is as follows: Is the angel that appears to Hagar the Lord or just a messenger (meaning that his message is not necessarily divine)? If it is the former, how can God makes a promise regarding Ishmael that so closely mirrors His promise to Abram regarding Isaac.

Well first of all, regardless of whether this was a messenger (whatever you mean by that) or the Lord itself the bible clearly regarded this a genuine revelation, or else the bible wouldn't record it. I ask you why would the bible record a prophecy that it believes to never have come true? The fact that the bible considers it significant and important enough to record it reveals that the biblical authors considered it a genuine divine revelation. Indeed the bible itself alludes to the fruitfulness of Ishmael and to the fact that his children multiplied in numbers,

These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. Gen. 25:16 (ESV)

The number twelve is quite significant in the bible as the tribes of Israel themselves were said to be twelve. So here the bible is most likely hinting that the tribes of Ishmael numbered twelve just like the tribes of Israel which were said to be numerous "as the sand of the sea and as the heavenly stars". So you see according to the bible this prophecy indeed came true.

As for your other question, how can god extend to both of Abram's children the same blessing? Well it is not exactly like that. God clearly tells Abram in Gen. 21:12 "through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned". This clearly indicates the superiority of Isaac's offspring. But even though the bible distinguishes between Isaac and Ishmael it goes on to bless Ishmael telling Abram, "I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” So you see blessing both of Abraham's children with many children is not necessarily seen as a contradiction as long as one is more distinguished than the other.

Hope you find this helpful.

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