"G‑d's angel called to him from heaven and said…, 'Do not harm the boy. Do not do anything to him.'" (Gen. 22:11-12)

The apparently strange phenomenon in this paragraph, that G‑d is the one who subjects Abraham to the trial whereas the angel prevented him from going through with it, needs to be understood as follows: The "angel" mentioned in our paragraph is not of the category of the "nifradim" ["disembodied spiritual creatures"], but it belonged to what are known as the "netiyot" ["the emanations of G‑d", a divine voice much closer to G‑d's Essence than "mere" angels].

The voice which the Torah describes as emanating from an "angel of G‑d" was of a superior divine level….

Had the angel who called out to Abraham and instructed him to desist belonged to the category known as "nifradim", Abraham would have ignored him, and would not have allowed himself to be countermanded by a subordinate of the One who had instructed him in the first place. Moreover, it is quite unthinkable that an angel of the "lower" category of nifradim would have been allowed to say to Abraham, "You did not withhold your son from Me"; he would have had to say "from Him". All of this proves that the voice which the Torah describes as emanating from an "angel of G‑d" was of a superior divine level.

This "angel" is also known as the "great angel" who manifested himself in Exodus 14:19, when the Torah describes him as traveling in front of the encampment of the Jewish people [performing all kinds of miracles]. The words "malach ha Elo-him" employed there by the Torah do not mean "angel of the Lord", for the word "malach" [usually translated as "angel"] is not a possessive clause, the angel being merely an attribute of G‑d. The word "Elo-him" in that verse must be understood as an explanation of the word "malach". When the Torah describes this divine emanation as "malach" the meaning is that G‑d is "contained, present" within this divine emanation.

We encounter something similar in Exodus 23:21 where G‑d explains to Moses that the angel / malach who will be accompanying the Jewish people needs to be related to with the utmost reverence as "My name within him". Apparently, the word substituted for this attribute of G‑d we call "the awe of Isaac", an attribute which brooks no defiance of any sort.

When we read in Genesis 48:16, when Jacob blesses before his death, "The angel who has rescued me…is in the midst of the terrestrial world," which is an allusion to the attribute of "mastery" ["Adnut"] which this "angel" represents. He has authority within the whole terrestrial universe.

[Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of "The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya" by Eliyahu Munk.]