The exact identity of "The Angel of the Lord" is not given unto us. The Bible does however, provide important clues to his identity. While there are Old Testament and New Testament references of "angels of the Lord," or "an angel of the Lord," and "THE Angel of the Lord," it appears that when "the" is used, it specifies a certain being, who is separate from all other Angels. (Picture credit to Visual Bible International, Inc. - The Gospel of John, starring Henry Ian Cusick)
Bear in mind, the word "angel" also means "messenger," so some could take it as "The Messenger of the Lord." That would not lower his importance by being a messenger, on the contrary, his divinity is shown with all the miracles and wonders The Angel of the Lord performs and speaks of.
The Angel of the Lord speaks as God, also identifying himself as God, (Exodus 3:2-6) and shows that he has divine abilities, exercising the responsibility and power of The Lord. In Genesis 16:7-12, The Angel of the Lord visits Hagar, mother of Ishmael to tell her that she would give birth to a son and that her descendants would be great in number.
In Genesis 21:17-18, he speaks again with Hagar. He appears again not long after in Genesis 22:11-18, where Abraham is tested - and proves faithful. (See entry: The Faithfulness of Abraham) There are several other appearances made by the Angel of the Lord, found in: Exodus 3:2, where he tells Moses that he is God, appearing as a Burning Bush but identifying himself first as the Angel of the Lord then as God, and in Numbers 22:21-41, in which he appears to Balaam and his donkey. (See Book Overview: Numbers)
He also appears in Judges 2:1-4;5:23;6:11-24;13:3-22, in which he appears to Gideon, Manoah - to speak of his son, Samson, both Judges of Israel, 2nd Samuel 24:16, where The Angel of the Lord appears and speaks with King David, and in Zechariah 1:12;3:1;12:8. (See entry: The Faithfulness of Gideon)
Those are only 13 distinct accounts of the Angel of the Lord. In most of these appearances, those who had seen the Angel of the Lord were said to fear for their lives, for they had "seen the Lord." That said, in most instances, it is clearly shown that the Angel of the Lord is God in physical form.
Appearances from the Angel of the Lord end after the birth of Jesus Christ, Messiah, Son of God. Yes, angels are still mentioned in the New Testament. However, there are no references to the "Angel of the Lord" after the incarnation of Christ.
It is highly plausible and accepted by many Bible Scholars that "The Angel of the Lord" is Jesus, and that these appearances were manifestations of Jesus before his incarnation on the Earth. John 8:58 says, "'Very truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'"
This greatly angered the Jews, but on several occasions Jesus mentioned that he existed even before creation - John the Baptist also alluded to this fact. Knowing that Jesus is part of the Trinity along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, each is a part of God - but God the Father is generally accepted as God, with Jesus as the Son of God, and The Holy Spirit as God's Spirit.
The Trinity is a difficult thing to understand, but one day, perhaps we will. The Trinity itself appears to Abraham, Sarah, and Lot in Genesis 18-19. It makes sense that Jesus would appear to man in manifestations before his incarnation.
Whatever the case, whether The Angel of the Lord was pre-incarnate appearances from Jesus Christ (referred to as Christophany) or appearances from God the Father (referred to as Theophany), when we read about "THE Angel of the Lord," we are reading about a physical appearance from part of the Trinity - from God.
There are several other instances in the Old Testament that many point to as appearances of Jesus, such as in Daniel 3:24-25, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the Fiery Furnace. Nebuchadnezzar notices a fourth man, whom he describes as a "son of gods." Most assume the fourth man to be Jesus.
Based on what we can tell from scriptures, most conclude that "The Angel of the Lord," or rather, "The Messenger of the Lord," is Jesus, pre-incarnate. Verily I tell you, Jesus did appear before his incarnation on Earth. But whether or not he appeared as the Angel of the Lord, we will not know until we arrive in Heaven.
There are many curiosities in the Bible, and the mystery of the identity of The Angel of the Lord remains so. However, most signs point to the Angel of the Lord being Jesus. But we do not know for sure, all we do know is that when Jesus was incarnate, he died to pay the fine, to pay in blood for all of the past, present, and future sins that you and I have and will commit.
So praise the Lord for rescuing you from the pit, and if you have not turned to Christ, I urge you to do so. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that he is risen from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9) Pray for forgiveness of your sins, and follow God.
The Angel of the Lord is a prominent figure, usually not-noted, in the Old Testament. I tell you, he is as important as Abraham, Moses, or King David are. He is called the LORD on many occasions, and therefore, is the Lord.
I hope this entry has been helpful and educational, that was the intention was to inform and educate, to help those like myself who formerly were uncertain of this "angel's" identity. If you have never heard of the Angel of the Lord or have not picked up on his importance, I am sure that you now have.
Take Care, and God Bless. Troy Hillman