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Don Stewart :: What Have Angels Done According to the Old Testament?

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Don Stewart
Angels have figured prominently in many episodes that the Old Testament records. We will consider some of the more prominent examples.

1. Present At Creation

When God created the world, it seems it was witnessed by angels.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. . . . when the morning stars sang together and all the "sons of God" shouted for joy? (Job 38:4,7).

2. Hagar

Although angels were seemingly present at creation, there is no mention of their ministry until the days of Abraham. After Hagar had conceived Abraham's child, she was sent out by Sarah, Abraham's wife. The angel of the LORD found Hagar.

The angel of the LORD found her [Hagar] by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur (Genesis 16:7).

Later, when Hagar and Ishmael were sent out by Abraham and Sarah, the Bible says that an angel ministered unto them.

And God heard the voice of the boy. Then the angel of God proceeded to call to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, "What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is" (Genesis 21:17).

3. Three Angels Visit Abraham

The Bible says that three angels visited Abraham while on their way to Sodom. These angels appeared in the form of men.

He looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground (Genesis 18:2).

The angels who met Abraham included the "angel of the LORD."

4. Rescue Of Lot

Two angels rescued Lot from the destruction of Sodom.

But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city (Genesis 19:16).

5. Jacob

Jacob had a variety of experiences with angels. One of these episodes was his famous dream.

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12).

An angel appeared to Jacob in another dream.

Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am!' (Genesis 31:11).

Later, angels met Jacob as he traveled.

Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him (Genesis 32:1).

At the end of his life, Jacob said.

The Angel who has delivered me from all harm, may he bless these boys. And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth (Genesis 48:16).

Jacob, therefore, had a number of experiences with angels.

6. Passover Angel

The angel of death killed every firstborn, of both humans and animals, of those families who did not have blood placed over the door post. The families of those who placed the blood were passed over (Exodus 12).

7. Giving Of Law

Angels were present at the giving of the law.

The LORD came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from His mountain slopes (Deuteronomy 33:2).

With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands, the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place (Psalm 68:17).

The "mighty chariotry" is a term for angels.

Stephen's Speech

In the speech of Stephen, angels are acknowledged as being involved when God gave the law.

It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, but you have not obeyed it (Acts 7:35,38,53).

Paul also emphasized this.

What purpose then does the Law serve? It was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator (Galatians 3:19).

The writer to the Hebrews concurred.

For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just punishment (Hebrews 2:2).

8. Warning To Balaam

God sent His angel to warn Balaam that he was disobeying the Lord.

But the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?" And he said, "No." Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face (Numbers 22:30,31).

9. Rebuke Of Israel

An angel rebuked Israel for their idolatry.

Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, "I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you into the Land that I had promised to your ancestors. I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you. For your part, do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed My command. See what you have done! So now I say, I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become adversaries to you, and their gods shall be a snare to you." When the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the Israelites, the people lifted up their voices and cried (Judges 2:1-4).

10. Curse Enemies Of The Lord

During the time of the Judges, an angel cursed those who did not help the LORD against His enemies.

Curse Meroz, says the angel of the LORD, curse bitterly its inhabitants, because they did not come to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty (Judges 5:23).

11. Judged Israel For David's Sin

When David sinned by numbering the people of Israel, God judged them through the angel of the LORD.

But when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented concerning the evil, and said to the angel who was bringing destruction among the people, "It is enough; now stay your hand." The angel of the LORD was then by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was destroying the people, he said to the LORD, "I alone have sinned, and I alone have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father's house" (2 Samuel 24:16-17).

12. Elijah Strengthened By Angel

The prophet Elijah was strengthened by an angel who brought him things to eat and drink.

Then he laid down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, "Get up and eat." He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and laid down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you" (1 Kings 19:5-7).

13. Angel Killed The Assyrians

The angel of the LORD killed a large number of the Assyrian army.

That very night the angel of the LORD set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies (2 Kings 19:35).

14. Saved Three Hebrews From Fiery Furnace

The three friends of Daniel - Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah - were saved from the fiery furnace by an angel.

He [Nebuchadnezzar] replied, "But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god" (Daniel 3:25).

15. Preserved The Life Of Daniel

An angel preserved the life of Daniel in the lion's den.

My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong (Daniel 6:22).


These examples give a sampling of the works of angels in the Old Testament. We find that angels were very active during the period of the Old Testament. From the very beginning in the Book of Genesis, through the Babylonian captivity, they have been carrying out God's will toward humanity. As can be seen from the examples given, they have appeared at crucial times in Old Testament history.
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