Appearances of God in Human Form in the Old Testament

In Genesis chapter 18 three men appear to Abraham.  I say appear because he doesn’t observe them approaching from afar, they are just suddenly there.   It is gradually revealed that one of them is the Lord (18: 13) and the other two are angels (19: 1).   (By way of addition, 9th Feb 2018, I should point out that the church has seen the three as an image of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The Lord tells Abraham that he will have a son by the time he visits him again next year.  They all walk together towards Sodom.  The Lord tells Abraham of the fate in store for Sodom and Gomorrah (fate not really being the right word, judgment would be better).  The two angels go on into Sodom while the Lord and Abraham have a discussion.  Abraham intercedes for Sodom, saying that if there were 50 just men in the city would the Lord spare it.  The Lord says he will be spare it for 50 just men.  Abraham haggles some more reducing the number of just men required to spare the town to 40,then 30, then 20,then 10 and leaves it there,  It makes you wonder if he kept haggling could he have got it down some more.  Sadly not even 10 just men are found and the city is destroyed, but Lot is spared with his daughters and his wife because of Abraham.  It says that because God kept Abraham in mind (19: 29), Lot is rescued.  He gets a free ride.  It makes you wonder if our loved ones get a free ride because of us.  Whether or not that would extend beyond this world is debatable.

By the way, this same promise of a free ride is given to Rahab by the two spies of Joshua (Joshua 2: 12-14 & 6: 22-23).  I know people who have found comfort in this for their loved ones who are not in Christ.

Anyway, my main point is the Lord appeared in human form to Abraham.

In Joshua 5: vs 13-15 the Lord appears to Joshua in human form before the battle of Jericho as the “captain of the Lord’s army”.  It says that Joshua worshiped him indicating that this is the Lord and not an angel, as an angel wouldn’t accept worship (Revelation 22: 8-9).

So we have two instances of God appearing to people in human form in the old testament

If we were to speculate about this, God has one human form that we know of and that is Jesus.  Is it possible that Jesus met with Abraham and Joshua?  I can’t say for definite, that is more than the scripture says.  It is just an “I wonder” sort of thing.

Further to this Moses was unable to see God in all his glory as it would have killed him, but he was allowed to see his back (Exodus 33: 18-23).  But in Deuteronomy 34: 10 it says that the Lord knew Moses “face to face” (also Numbers 12: 8 where it says Moses sees “the form of the Lord”).  We know that Moses met Jesus on the mountain of transfiguration in the new testament (Mark 9: 2-8).  Could Moses have also met Jesus in the cloud on the mountain of Sinai (Exodus 24: 16-18)?  Do we have two separate events or one event out of time and space?  I can’t say and the scripture doesn’t say.  It’s just another “I wonder” moment.  I like the idea that some people in the old testament met Jesus, though I’m going beyond what the scripture says.  All we can be sure of is that God met Abraham and Joshua in human form in the old testament, something wonderful in itself. PTL!

Addition 27/9/18 – It is often the case that the more you look the more you find.  So have a look at Genesis 32:24-32, Jacob wrestles with God.  Jacob wrestles with a man who turns out to be God in human form.  Why Jacob thought he could win is beyond me but he wrestles with this “man” all night and even when the “man” dislocates his hip Jacob will not let him go until he gets a blessing.  The blessing he is given is a name change from Jacob to Israel for one who struggles (wrestles) with God.  This is the name which is also given to the nation formed from the 12 tribes, that are from the 12 sons of Jacob.  The “man” does not give his name, even when asked, but Jacob is in no doubt about who this is.  Jacob names the place “Peniel” because he saw God face to face and yet his life was spared.  EL means God in Hebrew.  IsraEL “struggles with God”.  PeniEL – “face of God”.

Addition 11/12/18 – I found another one!  Daniel 3 where three Jews refuse to worship the golden statue Nebuchadnezzar had made and are thrown into the furnace.  Verse 49 -50 (septuagint) says, “But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace beside Azariah and his companions; he drove the flames of the fire outwards, and fanned in to them, in the heart of the furnace, a coolness such as wind and dew will bring, so that the fire did not even touch them or cause them any pain or distress.”  Jerusalem Bible – from the septuagint.  This story is shorter in most bibles being 30 verses following the Hebrew.  Catholic bibles have 90 verses following the Greek septuagint.

verse 24-25 regular numbering, 91-92 in the septuagint – both numberings are given in the Jerusalem bible)   Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement.  He said to his advisors, ‘Did we not have these three men bound into the fire?’  They replied, ‘Certainly, O king,’  ‘But,’ he went on, ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm.  And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

verse 28 (95)  Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he (God) has sent his angel to rescue his servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own…’

There is some debate as to whether this was an angel or God in human form.  The description is of a fourth man walking around in the fire.   How wonderful to think that God in human form, that is Jesus, met with and protected the three in the furnace.

And it all ends well in verses 29-30 (96-97)


Addition 3/3/19 – And yet another one!  Judges 6: 11-22  The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon.  Often when we see this phrase “the angel of the Lord” it is actually the Lord himself.  How do we know that this is the case here?

Judges 6: 11-24 – The angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Oprah which belonged to Joash of Abiezer.  Gideon his son was threshing wheat inside the winepress to keep it hidden from Midian, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘The Lord is with you, valiant warrior!’  Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, then why is it that all of this is happening to us now?  And where are all the wonders our ancestors tell us of when they say, “Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?”  But now the Lord has deserted us; he has abandoned us to Midian.’

At this the Lord turned to him and said,  ‘Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian.  Do I not send you myself?.’  Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but how can I deliver Israel?  My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’  The Lord answered him, ‘I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man’.  Gideon said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your sight, give me a sign that it is You who speak to me.  I beg you, do not go away until I come back.  I will bring you my offering and set it down before you.’  And he answered, ‘I will stay until you return.’

Gideon went away and prepared a young goat and made unleavened cakes with an ephah of flour.  He put the meat into a basket and the broth into a pot, then brought it all to him under the terebinth.  As he came near, the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Take the meat and unleavened cakes, put them on this rock and pour the broth over them’.  Gideon did so.  Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff in his hand and touched the meat and unleavened cakes.  Fire sprang from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened cakes, and the angel of the Lord vanished before his eyes.  Then Gideon knew this was the angel of the Lord, and he said, ‘Alas, my Lord God!  I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!  The Lord answered him. ‘Peace be with you; have no fear; you will not die’.  Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it the Lord is Peace.  This altar still stands at Oprah of Abiezer.

   I don’t think I have to say much more, it is very clear.  The Lord in human form with a staff in his hand appeared to Gideon.  This all just gets better and better!