Angelic Conversations with Women

Angels are often on our minds during Advent and after reading about the following angelic encounters in Luke, I wondered about how many times an angel had visited women in the Bible.

An angel came to Zechariah to tell him that his infertile wife would have a son, John, who would “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17) A few verses later, we’re told of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth you relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.

Luke 1:35-37

Angles spoke with women only four times in scripture (search “angel” in We see an angel communicating with Hagar (Genesis 16), twice (Genesis 21:17-18), to the mother of Samson (Judges 13), to Mary telling her that she would bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38), and to the women who came to Jesus’s tomb on the third day (Matthew 28:1-7). Angels spoke to men quite a bit more often, but these four episodes deserve a little more research.

Hagar was completely on her own when the angel met her. She had left Abraham’s home and had no one to protect her. It’s evidence of God’s love and compassion that he sent an angel to strengthen her and give her hope. The angel appearing to the barren mother of Samson, whose name is never revealed, is more mysterious. Her husband’s name was Manoah, and upon finding out about the angelic conversation he prayed that the angel would make a second appearance so they could ask him about instructions for raising the child. The angel again came to the woman, and she called Manoah to the scene. The instructions given them were no different from the original plan of action given to the woman. Samson’s mother seemed to take all this calmly and rationally, and it was her husband who overreacted.

That brings us to the stories of angelic intervention announcing the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. John lived right in between the Old and New Testaments, and many consider him the last of the Old Testament prophets. Old Testament law prescribed that a father or husband could override a woman’s decision, so it could be that the angel told Zechariah because he was responsible for Elizabeth. But then why did Gabriel appear to Mary instead of Joseph? Of course, Mary had a very central and unusual assignment, and she might have questioned her sanity, or at least her memory, if she hadn’t had direct contact with the angel. Maybe God knew that she needed assurance that this was God’s plan.

The women who went to Jesus’s tomb had the honor of being the first to experience angelic proof that he had risen. In this case, the angels didn’t come to them; they found the angels at the tomb. It was the women who had stayed with Jesus throughout his crucifixion and were at the tomb early in the morning, so they were the ones who interacted with the angels.

Most angelic encounters in the Bible were with men, but the outliers, Hagar, Samson’s mother, Mary and the women at the tomb, teach us something about God. In the Old Testament, the angel twice visiting Hagar tells us that God is compassionate to everyone, particularly those who have no other support, and Samson’s mother’s encounter tells us that God always has and always will work with women as well as men. Gabriel telling Mary the astonishing news that she would bear the “Son of the Most High…(whose) kingdom will never end” and angels appearing to the women at the tomb communicated news central to God’s plan of salvation. And he entrusted it to women.

When you think about angels this Advent season, remember that the Bible teaches that God sent angels to people of all economic classes, to men and women, and to all ethnic groups. He still does.

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 1:14

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

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