If you’ve heard the Christmas story, chances are you recognize Gabriel as the name of the angel who brought Mary the news that she would become pregnant and give birth to Jesus.
However, Gabriel is active in other places in the Bible as well, bringing prophetic words from the Lord to God’s faithful.
Gabriel Appears to Daniel
Gabriel is first mentioned by name in Daniel 8:16. At this time, Daniel (of the lion’s den fame) was living in Babylon where the Jews were in exile. As the book of Daniel records, though Daniel had been taken into exile and the service of the Babylonian king, he stayed true to his faith and gained great favor, becoming a powerful man who was also loyal to God.
Daniel had many visions of the future. It was after one such vision that the angel Gabriel visited him. Gabriel was called upon to explain the meaning of the vision to Daniel, illuminating what was to come.
Gabriel returned at least once more, in Daniel 9. He was sent in response to Daniel’s prayer and came to give him “insight and understanding” (Daniel 9:22). In this encounter, Gabriel pointed ahead to the “Anointed One,” a name for the Messiah, who would be Jesus.
Gabriel may have spoken to Daniel again, but it is unclear because the angel of Daniel 10 is not named.
Gabriel Appears to Zechariah
The book of Luke, one of the four Gospels, opens after a short introduction with the story of Zechariah, a priest. Luke records that Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:6).
One day, as Zechariah went into the temple to burn incense before God, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense” (Luke 1:11). This angel was Gabriel. Gabriel gave Zechariah the news that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son.
This seemed outlandish, as both were old and Elizabeth had been unable to have children, but Gabriel told Zechariah that he was to name the son John. Gabriel set out special directives for John and told Zechariah that John would bring back many to God and would prepare the way for the Lord — that “Lord” being Jesus, whose birth Gabriel would soon announce as well.
The baby, John, was none other than John the Baptist, and he would be the one to baptize Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
Gabriel Appears to Mary
Gabriel’s best-known role was the one in which he delivered the most important news: the coming of Jesus.
Instead of announcing the news to kings or priests, Gabriel was sent to a young virgin named Mary. The young woman had found favor with God and would be the mother of God’s Son. Gabriel told her:
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end (Luke 1:31-32).
After announcing Jesus’ name and identity, Gabriel explained to Mary that it would be a virgin birth caused by the Holy Spirit.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).
After this, Gabriel left. He does not appear in the Bible again, at least by name.
Gabriel’s Heavenly Role
But who is Gabriel? Each time Gabriel appears in the Bible, it is in the role of a messenger. However, this should not give the impression that he is a cute little messenger boy.
When Gabriel appeared to Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary, all three were stricken with awe. Daniel says, “As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate” (Daniel 8:17). Zechariah “was startled and was gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12). And Mary “was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). He had to reassure each of them before continuing with his messages, raising Daniel back to his feet and telling Zechariah and Mary, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:13, 30).
Gabriel indicated a favored position when he stated that he is an angel who “stand[s] in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19).
Thus, Gabriel is a good and holy angel of God who stands in God’s presence, and he was chosen by God to deliver important messages to at least three of God’s faithful, including the birth and name of God’s Son.
Is Gabriel an Archangel?
Though sometimes referred to as “the archangel Gabriel,” the Bible never gives him this title.
Gabriel is one of only two named good angels in the Protestant Bible, the other one being Michael. Michael is called an archangel (Jude 9), but Gabriel is not mentioned as such.
This idea comes from a work written between the Old and New Testaments, the book of Enoch, which calls both Michael and Gabriel archangels. Whether the book of Enoch is to be taken as correct or not, the Bible itself never calls Gabriel an archangel.
What Can We Learn from Gabriel?
Gabriel reminds us that God listens and cares for His people. Gabriel brought the greatest news of God’s love: the coming of Jesus. Though Gabriel may remain a being shrouded in mystery, his message is what matters most.
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Alyssa Roat studied writing, theology, and the Bible at Taylor University. She is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. Her passions for Biblical study and creativity collide in her writing. Her debut novel Wraithwood releases Nov. 7, 2020. She has had 150+ bylines in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.