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God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, so why does the angel of the Lord say:

“Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from ME your son, your only son.” Gen 22:12

He specifically says: “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” instead of saying now I know you do not fear ME if he goes on to say you have not withheld from ME your son.

He’s speaking as both himself and as if he’s God.

Why is this?

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    Because as YHWH's agent, the actions of the angel of YHWH is regarded as actions committed by his message sender, YHWH. The message of the angel is God's message. Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 1:39
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    It's interesting, isn't it? Because Ishmael is another son you could count. Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 4:41
  • He specifically says: “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” instead of saying now I know you do not fear ME if he goes on to say you have not withheld from ME your son.
    – Lyd
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 15:26

4 Answers 4

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This is what I call the "representative spokesman convention", in which the spokesman repeats somebody else's words in the first person, as though they were his own.

The most obvious example is the simultaneous translator. The foreign President speaks to a press conference and says "I will declare war on everybody" in Russian (for example), and the translator sitting next to him immediately says "I will declare war on everybody" in English. Just "I will", not "He says he will". A less obvious example is the image of the speaker on a television screen, which is nothing more than a collection of pixels, but still says "I will" as though it were the real person.

The angel of the Lord is another representative spokesman and tends to speak in the same way. Another example is the angel of the Lord speaking to Hagar and saying "I will greatly multiply your descendants" (Genesis ch16 v10). In fact Hagar regards herself as having seen God (v13), since the angel is about as much of the visible presence of God as the average person can stand. This is where it get closer to the "television image" analogy.

Incdentally, this is why John gets confused in Revelation ch22 vv8-9. The speaker is the angel of Jesus, another representative spokesman, not Jesus himself.

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  • To verify this unBiblical idea of a representative spokesman, can you identify another example of (say) a prophet speaking for God where the prophet does not make explicitly clear that he is speaking of behalf of God?
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 7:13
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    @Dottard The suggestion is made only about "the angel", so I would just need to find other examples of the angel of the Lord doing it. The best plan would be to go through Judges, starting with Judges ch2 v1; "The angel of the Lord... said; I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the lamd which I swore to give to your fathers". Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 8:14
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    @Mr Bond Please read again. Of course the Lord multiplied Abram's descendants; that angel iwas quoted as anorher example of the angel saying "I" when speaking the Lord's words. Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 15:46
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    No, because your questions are missing the point, being based on a false understanding of what I said. Please re-read my answer from the top. Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 16:36
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    I think the Angel of the Lord is definitely speaking under this representative spokesman convention. We may also conclude that the Angel of the Lord is the Son, but that's a theological conclusion arrived at after studying the whole Bible. If all we had was Genesis (or even the whole Pentateuch as Israel originally had), then when we read a passage like this we would almost certainly conclude it's just an ordinary angel speaking for God. So while I personally do think the Angel is the Son, I think this is a better exegetical answer than those jumping immediately to a theophany.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 23:05
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The simple answer is because the angel of the Lord is God in the person of Jesus Christ before He incarnated. Notice at Genesis 22:1 it says, "God tested Abraham."

At Genesis 22:9 Abraham arrived at the place where God told him to go. Vs10, "And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son." Vs11, "But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

So why in the world does this angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham from heaven? (At Exodus 20:22, God speaks from heaven). In fact, God did not have any trouble speaking from heaven at Mark 1:11 in the NT. "and a voice came out of the heavens, "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased."

Moving along, Vs12, "And he said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Why does the text say Isaac was Abraham's only son when Abraham had another son?)

Skipping to vs15, "Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven. Vs16, and said, (Notice it says, "and said," not and God said.) By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, Vs17, "indeed I will greatly bless you and I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and you seed shall possess the gate of your enemies.

Vs18, And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because YOU HAVE OBEYED MY VOICE." Now, many people bring up the proposition that the angel of the Lord is the agent speaking on behalf of God. The Jews do have the "sheluach" principle.

It is also called the Law of Agency. It deals with the status of a person (known as the agent) acting by the direction of another, (the principal). In this case the angel of the Lord is acting on behalf of God. It is also important to note that the angel of the Lord is NOT and actual angel like Michael of Gabriel.

The Hebrew word for angel is "malak." The word simply means, "messenger." At Malachi 3:1 we read, "Behold, I am going to send My "malak/angel/messenger" and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the "malak/angel/messenger" of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts."

So, who cleared the way of the Lord? Please read Mark 1:1-4. It was John the Baptist who cleared the way of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a side note we know that Malachi is a prophet, well his name comes from the work "malak." The prophet Malachi is a messenger and he and John the Baptist are human beings, not angels.

So I'm going to make this bold statement! It's impossible for the angel of the Lord to be an actual angel. Secondly, it is a fact that the angel of the Lord is not only a messenger but God Himself. What's my proof? Yes, as I said the Jews have the "Law of Agency where an agent acts on behalf of a principal.

It should also be stated that the agent is limited in his duties while acting on behalf of a principal. In this case, in Genesis 22, an angel cannot swear an oath on behalf of God Himself. Since the angel of the Lord is not an actual angel, he can swear the oath because He is God.

Here's the proof from the writer of the book of Hebrews at Hebrews 6:13-16, "For when God made the promise to Abraham (referring to Genesis 22), since He could swear by no one greater, HE SWORE BY HIMSELF, vs14, saying, I will surely multiply you; vs15, And thus having patiently waited, he obtained the promise; vs16, For men swear by one greater than themselves, (in a courtroom you swear to tell the truth "So help you God), and with them an oath given as confirmation is the end of every dispute. Also, swearing an oath is a matter of one's personal conscience.

Lastly, and I almost forgot this point. It come from Genesis 22:12, where it says, "I know you fear God." God oftentimes speaks in the first person and in the third person. A good example is at Job 1:8, "And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, FEARING GOD and turning away from evil."

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  • He specifically says: “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” instead of saying now I know you do not fear ME if he goes on to say you have not withheld from ME your son. He should’ve said I know you do not fear me specifically. If I’m a believer whose faith won’t be shaken and I can see so many things not just this that don’t make sense, how hard it must be to convince an unbeliever. I can go to other verses but they have never even read the word to even do research :(
    – Lyd
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 15:40
  • @Nat The second you said these words, "He should’ve said I know you do not fear me specifically." In logic this is known as "an argument from silence." This means you are presenting negative evidence of what God did NOT do, hoping that doing so will somehow prove you point. An example! In the book of Acts not one person said that Jesus Christ was God, therefore Jesus is not God. What are you going to do with the other books of the Bible or the gospels that say He is God? And btw, Genesis 22:12 makes perfect sense as to who is doing the talking, God! Genesis 22:16 verifies it.
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 18:47
  • I don’t want to prove a point I want to understand because I know unbelievers will think the exact same thing. Since you can’t answer why he spoke both as himself and as God your weird assumptions/comments are not useful. I need an actual answer for myself and others.
    – Lyd
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 15:53
  • @Nat First, there is nothing weird about my (so-called) assumptions. I don't "assume" anything. I quote verses in their context. Now, I understand your question after making it more clear. He spoke as Himself and as God because the angel of the Lord is God. If you would have read my answers I explained why? God the Father cannot be seen physically even according to Jesus Himself. John 5:37,6:46. The Son is the ONLY manifestation and revelation of the Father. John 14:9. What is know of the Father is revealed through the Son. John 1:18; 10:30; 12:45; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3. That's why?
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 18:18
  • The assumption was that I was trying to prove a point when I clearly was not. I had no idea the Angel of the Lord is God. I didn’t know that was biblically explained which wouldn’t make this question an actual question. I’ll find out where this is explained. Thanks.
    – Lyd
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 21:58
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In ancient Middle Eastern culture, authorized servants were often empowered to act on behalf of and in the name of their masters. One example of this is Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:1-9). Significantly, although scholars believe the servant was Eliezer of Damascus, he is not named.1 When he goes to negotiate on behalf of Abraham, it is as if he were Abraham.

This practice of investing of one's name/authority in an authorized representative is present in Jesus' teachings in the New Testament (Matthew 10:40; John 5:43). In this context, we could refer to it as a "divine investing" of the authority of God's name. This is what the angel would be doing in the context of the passage you mention.

1 Kenneth L. Barker, ed., NIV Study Bible, Fully Revised Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 51.

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I think this was a divine person/witness within the Godhead. There are more examples.

Hagar ran away from Sarai in Genesis 16:

7The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.

Most versions translate malak Yahweh here as "the angel of the LORD". Brenton Septuagint Translation translated it as "an angel of the Lord".

8And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”

At this point, the angel spoke as first person authoritatively as if he was the LORD. The wording was similar to what the LORD said to Abram in Genesis 13:

16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.

The angel continued:

11And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.

Here, the language was not in first person. Still, the angel seemed to be a member of the divine Godhead. Similar language is found in Exodus 24:

1Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, 2a but Moses alone is to approach the Lord.

Hagar thought the angel was the LORD:

13 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.” 14Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

The angel of the LORD here seems to differ from the LORD-Yahweh but he also seems to be a divine person/witness. They seem to be two distinct witnesses in God/Divinity.

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  • Ok but why would he speak as both himself and as if he’s God too: “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear GOD because you have not withheld from ME your son, your only son.” Why does he do this?
    – Lyd
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 15:53
  • Because they are two distinct witnesses of God/Divinity.
    – user35953
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 16:36

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