Angels in the Hebrew Bible

Angels in the Hebrew Bible by Myra Kahn Adams for Town Hall

Thanks for joining us as we begin our two-part study about angels in the Bible. Today we examine the Old Testament, and next week the New.

Everyone loves angels, those adorable, cuddly, invisible, flying beings with fluffy white wings depicted throughout culture in music, art, literature, cartoons, and movies.

Speaking of movies, among my favorites is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring a hard-working angel named Clarence. But my beloved “real” angel is St. Michael – a high-ranking “archangel” – among the few mentioned by name in the Bible and best-known for his “Prayer of Protection” discussed in Vol. 20.

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Guiding us through our brief study meant to stimulate further interest in this extensive topic is Mike Aquilina, who authored “Angels of God.” Mike has written numerous books and is Executive Vice President and Trustee of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

Aquilina says, “The word ‘angel’ is from the Greek word, angelos, meaning ‘messenger’ also the root of ‘evangelist,’ and ‘evangelical,’ that means ‘news.’ Thus, ‘ev-angel’ is ‘good news,’ referring to the gospel.”

The Biblical appearance of angel messengers conflicts with Hollywood’s cherub-faced friendly depiction and the reason why angels usually say, “Don’t be afraid” before delivering their heavenly messages from God. Although the word angel is rooted in “messenger,” they are called upon to perform varied tasks, most notably as guardians.

In the Bible, angels are called many names. Aquilina says, “the Bible uses a wealth of terms such as seraphim, cherubim, choirs, thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, sons of God, ministers, servants, hosts, watchers and holy ones.”

The first time an angel is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible is in the third chapter of Genesis:

“After he [God] drove the man out, he [God] placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

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