Question of the Week: Was the Angel in Isaiah 37:36 Jesus?
Theophanies, or appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament, are fairly common. The Angel of the Lord is His most common title. However, the reason we conclude that this Angel of the Lord is Jesus is due to the fact that this Angel, or literally messenger, talks like or is treated in ways that exclusively belong to God alone. The question of whether or not the Angel that wiped out Sennacherib’s army was Jesus entirely depends on whether or not that Angel says or does something that could only be rightly said about the True and Living God. If not, then it is possible that this is merely an agent acting on God’s behalf. In this case, there is merit to either position.
The first possibility is that this is indeed an appearance of Jesus. The biblical support for this view is found in the verses immediately prior to verse 36.
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, Nor shoot an arrow there, Nor come before it with shield, Nor build a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, By the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ Says the Lord. ‘For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ ”
Isaiah 37:33-35 (NKJV)
The Lord is speaking and claims that “I will defend this city.” The plain interpretation and application of the passage makes it entirely appropriate to conclude that it was a literal statement. The Lord personally defended Jerusalem from her enemies. He has done so before and promised He would do so again. Examples of God personally coming to Israel’s defense can be found in Exodus 14:14, Deuteronomy 28:7, and Revelation 19:11-21.
The only other issue that needs clarification in order for this position to have merit is if destroying those who threaten Israel is something that only God can do. This is the problem. It isn’t an exclusive trait of God. God has used agents to defend Israel’s borders. Human beings like the Judges and Kings (Exodus 17:13), Angels like Michael (Daniel 10:21), and God Himself (Exodus 12:29-30) are all capable of defending Israel from her enemies. This is where the second possibility comes in. God could have sent an unnamed angel to act as His agent in this matter without contradicting verse 35. Jesus Himself declared this prerogative when clarifying to Peter that He didn’t need physical protection from His enemies. The idea of calling 12 legions of angels to defend Him was a legitimate threat if the capabilities of one is clarified in Isaiah.
But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”
Matthew 26:52-54 (NKJV)
What then would be the fine line that would prohibit this angel from being anyone other than Jesus? The other examples of the Angel of the Lord being rightly understood as God Himself were determined when the Angel is treated or speaks in ways only God could be. Joshua encounters the Angel of the Lord and worships Him in Joshua 5:13-15. No ordinary angel would accept worship, and we have direct examples of them prohibiting it when it took place in Revelation 19:10 and Revelation 22:9.
The conclusion on the matter is simply this. Could the Angel who defended Israel from Assyria in Isaiah have been Jesus? Absolutely. The immediate context allows that conclusion. Could the Angel have been an unnamed spiritual being sent by God to fulfill His word? There is nothing that prohibits that interpretation either. The key takeaway from this passage is understanding how to identify the difference between the Angel of the Lord as God and merely another created being we refer to as an angel. This is not a passage where the line is finely drawn.
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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