Coming from the Greek meaning “chief angel,” these angels seem to be at the top of the angelic hierarchy in terms of power. Created by God, these types of angels have a number of purposes they fill, lining the Old and New Testaments of Scripture.
Who are the archangels we encounter in Scripture and outside of it? What purposes do they serve? What are some other angels in the hierarchy below them? This article will explore all of these questions.
How Does the Word Archangel Relate to the Word Angel?
The word angel is applied in Scripture to an order of supernatural or heavenly beings whose business it is to act as God's messengers to men, and as agents who carry out His will. Both in Hebrew and Greek the word is applied to human messengers (1 Kings 19:2; Luke 7:24); in Hebrew it is used in the singular to denote a Divine messenger, and in the plural for human messengers, although there are exceptions to both usages. It is applied to the prophet Haggai (Haggai 1:13), to the priest (Malachi 2:7), and to the messenger who is to prepare the way of the Lord (Malachi 3:1). Other Hebrew words and phrases applied to angels are bene ha-‘elohim (Genesis 6:2,4; Job 1:6; 2:1) and bene 'elim (Psalms 29:1; 89:6), i.e. sons of the ‘elohim or ‘elim; this means, according to a common Hebrew usage, members of the class called ‘elohim or ‘elim, the heavenly powers. It seems doubtful whether the word ‘elohim, standing by itself, is ever used to describe angels, although Septuagint so translates it in a few passages.
The most notable instance is Psalms 8:5; where the Revised Version (British and American) gives, “Thou hast made him but little lower than God,” with the English Revised Version, margin reading of “the angels” for “God” (compare Hebrews 2:7,9); qedhoshim “holy ones” (Psalms 89:5,7), a name suggesting the fact that they belong to God; `ir, `irim, “watcher,” “watchers” (Daniel 4:13,17,23). Other expressions are used to designate angels collectively:
codh, “council” (Psalms 89:7), where the reference may be to an inner group of exalted angels; `edhah and qahal, “congregation” (Psalms 82:1; 89:5); and finally tsabha', tsebha'oth, “host,” “hosts,” as in the familiar phrase “the God of hosts.”
In New Testament the word aggelos, when it refers to a Divine messenger, is frequently accompanied by some phrase which makes this meaning clear, e.g. “the angels of heaven” (Matthew 24:36). Angels belong to the “heavenly host" (Luke 2:13). In reference to their nature they are called “spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). Paul evidently referred to the ordered ranks of supra-mundane beings in a group of words that are found in various combinations, namely, archai, “principalities,” exousiai, “powers,” thronoi, “thrones,” kuriotetes, “dominions,” and dunameis, also translated “powers.” The first four are apparently used in a good sense in Colossians 1:16, where it is said that all these beings were created through Christ and unto Him; in most of the other passages in which words from this group occur, they seem to represent evil powers. We are told that our wrestling is against them (Ephesians 6:12), and that Christ triumphs over the principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15; compare Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24). In two passages the word archaggelos, “archangel” or chief angel, occurs:
(Excerpted from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
How Many Archangels Do We See in the Bible?
The Bible only attributes the rank of "Archangel" to one angel: Michael. Although some wonder if we have a second angel, Gabriel, from the Bible, Scripture never labels him as an archangel.
We encounter Michael a number of times in the Old and New Testaments. He makes an appearance twice in the book of Daniel. Gabriel mentions Michael stepped into a spiritual fight against the Prince of Persia so Gabriel could deliver a message to the prophet (Daniel 10). Michael appears again in Daniel 12:1, indicating he protected the Israelite nation from spiritual attacks.
He makes a personal appearance in Jude 1:9 when in a dispute with the devil, where Satan attempts to get him to blaspheme God as they argue about the body of Moses. He rebukes Satan.
Are There Archangels in Other Ancient Texts?
We need to make a certain distinction before we dive into this section.
Jude 1:9 seems to indicate only one archangel exists, but Daniel 10:13 labels Michael as “one of the chief princes.” For now, we can assume only one archangel exists to the best of our knowledge. Nevertheless, this section will explore other ancient texts and names they have ascribed to archangels.
Readers, keep in mind this article is concluding Scripture as the 66 books in the Protestant Bible. Those from a Catholic background may consider books listing these angels as canon.
Raphael: A passage in Tobit 12:15-22 indicates seven archangels exist, including Raphael, who appears to Tobit and Tobias and encourages them to sing praises to God.
Gabriel: As mentioned above, Scripture does not give him the label of an archangel, but we can mention he makes an appearance to Daniel and to Mary the Mother of Jesus, each time proclaiming news that will affect the future of the Israelite nation.
Jophiel: From Jewish and Kabalistic lore, she is linked often with beauty and positivity. No Scripture or extracanonical text seems to mention her by name.
Ariel/Uriel: Although some people have attributed Uriel to several events that happen in the Bible (the angel who guarded the Garden of Eden, the angel who slew the Assyrian army, etc.), an extra-canonical book known as 2 Esdras mentions him (2 Esdras 4:1-8). Uriel presents three impossible riddles to show us how humans cannot fathom the ways of God.
Azrael: Many have labeled Azrael as the Angel of Death in the tenth plague in Egypt, although Scripture never mentions an explicit name of that angel.
Chamuel: Again, never mentioned by name in any text, Chamuel is associated with bringing peace.
What Is the Purpose of Archangels?
Although not explicitly mentioned, archangels have a number of duties. As indicated in their name, they lead the other ranks of angels. It appears they engage in spiritual combat, as Scripture indicates Michael is known to do so.
If Gabriel falls under the label of an archangel, they also deliver God’s messages to His people.
What Are Other Types of Angels?
In addition to archangels, Scripture mentions a few other types:
- Cherubim: Angels associated with holiness and guarding against sin. Cherubim were placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden after man sinned and on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18).
- Seraphim: Six-winged angels who sing God’s praises without ceasing (Isaiah 6:2-7).
- Principalities and Powers: Other ranks of angels, whether fallen or not fallen, are mentioned in Scripture (Colossians 1:16).
What Is the Significance of Archangels?
A spiritual war rages all around us, be we can rest assured God has placed angels throughout the world to protect us against spiritual harm. We can learn from the example of archangels to trust in God (Michael refuses to blaspheme him), and that even beings of great power fall under God’s dominion.
Often people try to say Satan is God’s rival, but they often forget Satan has limited power, and God is omnipotent. A better matching would be Satan and Michael. Rest assured, God has no match. Mankind stands just a little lower than the angels, even powerful ones like Michael (Psalm 8:5).
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