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. May 11, 2018 at 5:12
  • 1
    Gen 16:13 refers to "The LORD who spoke to her". it says - So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God of seeing," for she said, "Truly here I have seen him who looks after me." So it's not just that the messenger spoke in the first person
    – barlop
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:12
  • Also you got the quote wrong. Genesis 16:10-12 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, "I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude." 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, "Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen."
    – barlop
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:46
  • -1 You are misquoting 'cos you are not quoting from any bible translation you are completely making up your own words
    – barlop
    Feb 1, 2019 at 15:53
  • The Almighty God is never called an angel in the bible. Feb 15, 2022 at 18:07

5 Answers 5


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.

  • so close Ruminator and then you stuffed it with your second point. You first point is the correct one...it is God. God does not delegate his authority to anyone else see Isaiah chapters 40-44 for lots of evidence of that fact.
    – Adam
    Jun 5, 2021 at 6:02
  • to illustrate my reason why i gave you a -1...read on in the story...vs11The angel of the LORD proceeded: “Behold, you have conceived and will bear a son. And you shall name him Ishmael 13 "So Hagar gave this name to the LORD who had spoken to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “Here I have seen the One who sees me!” (Ishmael means "God hears me") I do not recal any mere angel anywhere in the entire Bible being referred to as God (the mighty God). Hagar clearly saw deity.
    – Adam
    Jun 5, 2021 at 6:11
  • 2
    Seeing, even "seeing with my eye" does not always mean optics, even in our day. "My eyes were opened, and I saw..." can refer to an epiphany; a rush of understanding - "getting it." Please see the pulpit commentary on Job 42:5 Job 42:5 NASB20] (5) "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; biblehub.com/job/42-5.htm#commentary
    – Ruminator
    Jun 5, 2021 at 11:24
  • @Ruminator At Genesis 16:13 Hagar literally saw the angel of the Lord with her eyes. I'll explain later. Genesis 17:1-2, Now when Abraham was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am God Almighty, walk before Me and be blameless. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly." At Genesis 16:10 the angel of the Lord would multiply Hagar's descendants." I maintain the angel of the Lord are one and the same being. This was a physical visit. Genesis 17:22, "And when He/God finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
    – Mr. Bond
    Nov 26, 2022 at 19:23

I'm convinced that the angel of the Lord is the preincarnate Jesus Christ and as some have said the word "malak" does refer to actual angels,or messengers/humans like at Malachi 3:1 and to Jesus Christ who is the messenger of the covenant also at Malachie 3:1. So where's my proof? Look at Genesis 22:11, 15 where the angel of the Lord calls out from heaven two times. At vs16, "and said, By Myself I have SWORN, declares the Lord because you have done this thing etc. vs17, indeed, I will greatly multiply your seed etc. See also Genesis 17:1,2. Here is the kicker in all of this. Angels do indeed speak for God, BUT angels cannot SWEAR oaths on behalf of God. Look at Hebrews 6:13, "For when God made the promise to Abraham, since HE COULD NOT SWEAR BY NO ONE GREATER, HE SWORE BY HIMSELF, vs14, saying, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply you." Swearing an oath is a personal matter of conscience. And Jesus Christ is the only physical manifestion of God, John 1:18 and 1Timothy 3:16. Does this make sense? I have more evidence but this should do for now.

  • John 1:18 does not explicitly state “And Jesus Christ is the only physical manifestion of God” I am not saying you’re incorrect I am saying how you have arrived at your conclusion is not obvious or explicit. Nor the text in Timothy, it too does not state what form Jesus had prior to incarnation. John 17:5 would be a starting point in that direction. Oct 18, 2019 at 23:39
  • My point is the fact that God the Father has no separate manifestation from the Son. The Son is the only manifestation and revelation of the Father. In other words, what is known of the Father is revealed through the Son. To see the Son is to see the essence of the Father. That's why I gave John 1:18 and 1 Timothy 3:16. Also on this point please read John 10:30; 12:45, Colossians 1:15; and Hebrews 1:3. And what about John 17:3, what do you want to know? Please read John 17:5 and explain how Jesus had glory with His Father before the world was? Did Jesus preexist His incarnation?
    – james
    Oct 19, 2019 at 0:20
  • Welcome to BHSE! Make sure you take our Tour (lower left). Thanks Oct 19, 2019 at 1:45
  • Yes Jesus the Word in English, Logos is Greek, Eth in Hebrew, preexisted and has had a total of four forms that we know of, glorified Spirit prior to Creation, The Angel of the Lord after Creation, incarnation God and glorified body God. And if Jesus did not preexistent to incarnation then what we known of the Father is not from Jesus but from Scriptures an additional source. But the point is you might consider editing your response to include your additional references. Thank you Oct 19, 2019 at 12:46
  • Good answer James +1 from me
    – Adam
    Jun 5, 2021 at 6:03

If I read the question right, 2 questions are asked. 1 & 3 below, but I have added 2 as important;

  1. Did an angel or God appear to Hagar
  2. Problems with Genesis story
  3. Is God extending his blessing to both

Question 1

It appears quite clear that G16 the angel appeared to Hagar and informs her in G16:11 – to name him Ishamel. God does not need to come as an angel and no evidence of the same. Gen 22:11 - 11 ‘But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven’

Question 2 Problems with Genesis story

The story of Abraham and the great debate if it was Ishmael or Isaac who was the one that was going to be sacrificed will go on and on.

a) You would think God or his angel would know how many sons Abraham had.

God says to Abraham - Genesis 22:2, “…Take now thy son, thine only son…”.
Gods angel - Gen 22:12 'your only son, from me'

b) Gen 17:19 'I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.' - then say sacrifice him.

How can Isaac have an ‘everlasting covenant for his descendants’ if he was going to be sacrificed. The first thing Abraham would say is did you not promise Isaac 'descendants'.

c) Gen 21:14 Early the next morning Abraham got some food and a bottle of water. The bottle was made out of animal skin. He gave the food and water to Hagar, placing them on her shoulders. Then he sent her away with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. 15 When the water in the bottle was gone, she put the boy under a bush. Ishmael was approx. 13 when Sarah had Isaac. Hagar left after Sarah stopped breast feeding Isaac – so at least 2-3 years. In them days someone aged 15/16 years old would be considered a man.

He would have carried the food & water. Also, Hagar would not ‘put the boy under a bush’ – clearly implying he was a little child at best.

Question 3

But there is no doubt that Ishmael’s descendants were to be a great nation. Which arguably it became, the Arab semitic people. Hagar was a wife, having more then one wife was very common practice.

Genesis 16:3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. “I promise that I will give you as many descendants as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand along the seashore.” Genesis 22:16

Genesis 17:20 - 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. Genesis 21:13: And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 - The Right of the Firstborn 15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

Kedar son of Ishmael

Isaiah 42:11-15 11 Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. 12 Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands. 13 The LORD will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. Etc…

Deuteronomy 1:1 1These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan, in the Arabah, opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.

Genesis 21:20-21 - 20And God was with the boy, and he grew up and settled in the wilderness and became a great archer. 21And while he was dwelling in the wilderness of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

  • “And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read.’” “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” (Isaiah 28:11)

Isaiah 29:12 - “And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read.’”

Isaiah 28:11 11 Nay, but by men of strange lips and with another tongue will he speak to this people;

Strange / another tongue would indicate a different language, ie Arabic as Arabs ar the descendants of Ishmael.

  • It looks like your asking more questions than actually addressing the question of the thread. For example you said, "God does not need to come as an angel and no evidence of the same." God did not come as an actual angel, He came as a messenger in the form of a man. The evidence is at Genesis 17:1-2 and at Genesis 18;1-5. These are physical appearances confirmed at Genesis 17:22, and at Genesis 18:1-5 where Abraham offered food to the angel of the Lord and the two actual angels. Regarding Isaac, it was his blood line through Abraham that the Messiah would come from. Gen 22:18
    – Mr. Bond
    Jun 16, 2023 at 14:23
  • Nothing you have quoted says God came as a form of a man & Many where called Lord including Abraham does not make him God – I suppose the 3 visitors were – Father, son & HS? Isaac yes he was Blessed as was Ishmael. The Messiah Jesus (Jews were waiting for 2 Messiahs) would come from his blood line, I would agree - however, if you believe Jesus is God (the son) how can he be the ‘seed’ of Abraham / the blood line of Isaac, isn't he the blood line of God? See hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/81674/33268 Jun 19, 2023 at 11:34

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.

  • You've avoided his "main curioisity" is it god or is it the angel. And when you say "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" You're not only avoiding that question, you're bringing up a straw man. Nobody denied or questioned whether or not it was genuine revelation. He's accepting that it's (genuine) revelation.
    – barlop
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:07
  • @barlop at the time I wrote this I understood that he was asking whether it is a genuine prophecy or not. And I still don't see why you are so convinced that the OP accepted this as fact. From his second question you can see that the he thought that if it is just a messenger then the problem of similarity between Ishmael and Isaac's blessing would be resolved. This clearly implies he had doubts whether this messenger was divine. (for this is the only way it would be resolved)! In any case if you think you have something better, youre welcome to post your own answer.
    – bach
    Jan 31, 2019 at 19:19

The phrase “The Angel of Jehovah” is always represented in scripture as the messenger of Jehovah. Every time the phrase “The Angel of Jehovah” is found in scripture, it is used to describe deity. This term is never applied to anyone else in scripture. “The Angel of Jehovah” is always seen functioning as the spokesman of the Triadic Unity. In each case, this is deity appearing in human form. In every example, those to whom “The Angel of Jehovah” appeared, always understood at some point that they were speaking to God, and they honored him as such. The Angel of Jehovah will always assume divine authority in each of these Old Testament exemplars. He will always be seen serving as the agent of communication, hence the term “The Angel (messenger) of Jehovah.” This spokesman then is not represented as angelic in nature but in function. In nature, he is God. In function, he is the messenger in the Triadic Unity.

  • +1 from me another good answer.
    – Adam
    Jun 5, 2021 at 6:05
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    -1 You make expansive statements about what the Bible supposedly says, but do not quote from it, nor reference it. Furthermore, there is zero notion of "Triadic Unity" within the Bible, much less in the Hebrew where there is not even a hint of it.
    – Biblasia
    Nov 23, 2022 at 23:11

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