When we think about angels, the first thing that comes to our mind would be their majestic figure—a human-like being with beautiful wings that descends from heaven. When we were kids, we have been told by our parents that God sends his angels to watch over us to keep us safe from harm or to keep us away from nightmares.
The word angel derives from the Greek word aggelos, which many non-Greek speakers would transliterate to ángelos. It actually translates to messenger. In Islam, angels are called Malāʾikah, which means dominion and power.
In Christianity and Islam, the angels' purpose is to serve as messengers of God. Many angels in the Bible also exist in the Qur'an. For example, the archangel Gabriel is called Jibrīl in Qur'an.
However, there are some significant differences between Christianity and Islam about Gabriel. In Islam, he is the Holy Spirit, whereas the Holy Spirit in Christian belief is part of the Holy Trinity.
In the field of arts, famous artists have immortalized angels as benevolent and powerful creatures. They were prominent during the Renaissance period. One good example of this work of art made by Michelangelo is the fresco painting found in the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Italy.
During this time, angels can be perceived as male or females by their dress or actions in the paintings. But later in the 19th century, their figures have changed to look exactly the same as each other and were considered genderless.
Over the years, various interpretations of angels were romanticized in literature and other works of art. Sometimes we would wonder if these are accurate depictions that leave us to these questions: What does the Bible say about angels? How were they actually depicted? What is their purpose to humans? These are some of the several questions that we will tackle as we dive deeper to learn more about angelology.
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Types Of Angels In The Bible: Maimonides Hierarchy Of Angels
Moses ben Maimon, or also known as Maimonides, was a Jewish scholar from the 12th century. He was also one of the prominent and most influential Torah scholars way back to the Middle Ages. In his book Mishneh Torah, he ranked angels based on the importance of hierarchy in Heaven. There are ten ranks of angels in the Jewish angelic hierarchy. The following lists are ranked beginning from the lowest rank.
The 10 Hierarchy Of Angels
Rank 10: Ishim
Ishim, also known as Issim, Ischim, Aishim, or Izachim are types of angels in the Jewish tradition. They are a class of angels in the lowest rank, and they are believed to be the ones that are close to the affairs of humans. Their form of existence is through the shape of fire and ice. They are residing in the 5th Heaven where a verse in Psalms 104:4 said that Moses encountered these angels. They are also popularly described as “the beautiful souls of just men”.
Since the beginning of the Creation, Ishim's primary role is to praise and exalt the glory of God. The Ishim is also equal to the Bene Elohim. According to the Zohar, their ruler is Azazel, and their chief is Sandalphon.
In Islam, the prophet Muhammad encountered an angel in the form of half fire and ice named Habib while on his spiritual journey. An archangel named Gabriel told him that this angel provides advice to the believers of God and who also prays for them.
Rank 9: Cherubim
Cherub, cherubim in plural form, is believed to be derived from Akkadian karābu, which means to bless. According to Maimonides, they are the second-lowest in the ranking of angels.
Cherubim are believed to have childlike faces. In the book of Ezekiel, they appear to have multiple faces and wings. In Ezekiel's vision, they have four faces: one of a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a human. They have straight legs and four wings. The two wings are used to cover their body, and the other set of wings is used to fly.
The cherubim's task is to guard the entrance of the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were cast out. Cherubim were earlier mentioned in Genesis 3:24 when God placed these angels with glinting swords to protect the path to the Tree of Life. Their leader is the archangel, Gabriel.
Rank 8: Bene Elohim
Bene Elohim translates to “Sons of God” and rank 8th in the Maimonides Hierarchy of Angels. They are believed to be equal to the Ishim. Their main task is like that of Ishim—to continuously praise God and exalt His Name on high. Their ruler is the archangel, Michael.
The Bene Elohim comes in the form of white fire, and it is said that they are as strong as 70,000 men. They also appear in Genesis 6:2 as being equal with the angel Ishim.
Rank 7: Elohim
Elohim is directly translated to God and the 7th rank in Maimonides' Hierarchy of Angels. These angels are portrayed as godly beings. Their role is to find the most appropriate way for man to receive God's message and how it should be implemented in the most effective means.
These angels teach us how to endure pain, be brave in the face of adversity, and be patient to follow through with our passion. Their leader is archangel Haniel.
Rank 6: Malakim
The word angel in Greek is ángelos, which is derived from the Hebrew word Mal' akh, meaning messenger. The Malakims are the messengers of God, and they come in many forms but mostly in human form.
They also acted on God's behalf in the Old Testament. They were the angels of death in the Passover story in Exodus. One notable angel in the New Testament is Gabriel. During the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, angel Gabriel visited her to deliver a message from God that she would bear the Son of God.
Although Malakims were believed to be in a human form, no accounts of them having wings in the Bible. The leader of this domain is the archangel, Raphael.
Rank 5: Seraphim
The word “seraphim” is based on the Hebrew word “seraph,” which means “to burn”. The prophet Isaiah described seraphim as six-winged fiery angels surrounding God. Each pair of wings have their own purpose. The two wings cover their faces to shield them from being too overwhelmed by God's glory. One pair covers their feet signifies their respect and loyalty to God. The other pair is used to fly around God's throne in heaven.
Their name means “to burn” also signifies their burning passion of love for God. Their role is to sing and praise God as it was mentioned in Isaiah 63: “And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”. Their ruler is the archangel Khamael.
Rank 4: Hashmallim
They are angels known for their undying kindness, love, and grace. They appear as clouds of flame, and they are associated with the storms and possess the power of lightning. The rule of these angels is the archangel Zadkiel. It was thought that he was the angel who displayed a merciful kindness in Genesis chapter 22 when Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Rank 3: Erelim
Erelim comes from the Hebrew word erelam, which means “valiant ones”. They are generally in the third-highest rank of divine angels and are known for their courage and understanding. The archangel Tzaphkiel leads the erelim.
Their existence is taken from the book of Isaiah regarding the invasion of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. It is said that they would appear in times of death and national tragedy.
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Rank 2: Ophanim
The Ophanim, derived from Hebrew word “ophan,” meaning “wheels,” is the 2nd highest-ranking angel in the Celestial Hierarchy. Based on Ezekiel's vision of the chariot, he would describe them as beings with interlocking gold wheels with each exterior covered with multiple eyes. They are also known for their wisdom.
Rank 1: Chayot Ha Kodesh
It is said that the angels of this rank never sleep as they are tasked to guard God's throne in heaven. The Archangel Raziel is the leader of the Ophanim. The first and the highest rank of all angels. The Chayot ha Kodesh are known for their enlightenment. They radiate a very powerful light that appears to be made of fire. The light symbolizes their burning passion for God and how God's glory is reflected on them.
They are responsible for holding up God's throne and also holding Earth in its proper position in space. They believed to appear in the form of a chariot of fire that carried the prophet Elijah to heaven. The archangel Metatron leads the Chayot Ha Kodesh.
Biblical Facts About Angels
Throughout the years, the depiction of the angels has been transliterated from different versions. Even in the lore, they have different interpretations of the angels. In the modern age, angels have appeared in some movies, books, and comics. Most of us believed that angels are born when a good person passed away. We described them as powerful and majestic beings whose physical features have been romanticized and accepted by society.
Angels were also mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. It was described how they act as messengers. Some of their actions also helped many notable characters in the Bible. Also, some angels punished the wicked as well. We're going to discuss what are some of the interesting facts about angels in the Bible.
God created everything, including angels
In most religious sects, they believed that God created the universe, the stars, the sky, the land, the sea, animals, and even humans. It was also mentioned in the Bible in Colossians 1:16 that states:
“Everything in heaven and on earth, both seen and unseen, was created by God for His purposes.”
The Angels rejoice when we follow the will of God.
The angels are very loyal stewards of God. They would sing and praise His name on high. They would be much delighted if we also show our love to God and follow His path. Luke 15:10 says:
“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Angels are entitled to have free will.
Angels have their own free will. Like humans, the angels were also given free will to choose their path. It is also not a surprise that some angels left heaven's domain and been cast out to hell. Jude 1:6 states:
” We know them now as demons, and they will face the consequences of that decision on judgment day.”
Angels are not to be worshipped.
We see angels as amazing beings, but we should not worship them. They want us to only worship God as they have worshipped only Him. In the book of Revelations, the apostle John was so stunned at the presence of an angel that he bowed down, and the angel responded to him:
“Don't do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! (Revelation 19:10)
Angels are sent to protect us.
Like most parents teach their kids at night to pray to God for protection and not be afraid of the dark, parents would tell their kids that God sends His angels to keep us away from nightmares. This is actually true in the Bible. It was stated in Psalms 91:11-12:
“For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Famous Angels from The Bible
There are many angels that are mentioned in the Bible. Some of them are familiar to us. Here are some of the most famous angels in the Bible.
Lucifer in Hebrew means the “Shining One”. In the Bible, God created a powerful, wise, and beautiful angelic being. He was Lucifer and the chief among all angels.
Lucifer was given free will and could choose whether to accept God as God or be God himself. His beauty, wisdom, and skill led to his pride. He chose to be God and wanted to ascend to the throne. He led a rebellion against God, and he wanted mankind to join the revolt.
A passage in Isaiah 14 records the choice that he had made before he falls from heaven. In Ezekiel 14, there is also a passage that records his downfall.
The name Uriel means the “Light of God”. He is one of the seven archangels of heaven. He is known as the angel of wisdom. He shines like a beacon for those who seek wisdom, information, and the truth. He is depicted as an angel holding a scroll which signifies wisdom.
Though Uriel is not directly mentioned in the Bible, there are some speculations that he was described in the presence of God in Isaiah 63:9.
Michael is indeed the most popular archangel in the history of the Bible. He is known to be as God's “archangel” which means the “Chief Angel”, the leader of the heavenly hosts. He shows excellent leadership and faithful servant of the Lord.
In the Book of Revelation, he commanded God's army against the forces of Satan. During the war in heaven, he conquered Satan and was cast to Earth together with the other fallen angels.
In the book of Daniel, it was mentioned that Michael stands guard over Israel. Michael is the angel who punishes evil; that's why he's the patron saint of police and military personnel.
Raphael in Hebrew means ‘God has healed'. He is one of the archangels who appeared in the book of Tobbit and 1 Enoch. Later on, in the Christian tradition, he is known as the angel of healing, and he was the angel who stirred the waters of the pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-4.
In the book of Tobit, he disguised himself as a human under the name Azarias. Tobias accompanied him on his journey, and they conquered the demon Asmodeus. He is the archangel whose task is to heal the humans on Earth in which fallen angels have defiled. His name in Islam is Israfil.
Gabriel is also one of the most popular archangels next to Michael. The name Gabriel in Hebrew means “God is My Strength.” He is best known as the messenger of God.
Not only is he a messenger, but also he delivers the good news of the Lord. In Luke 1:31-32, he visited Mary to have the good news: the coming of Jesus. He is a reminder that God listens and cares for His people.
It is undeniably true that angels exist around us. They are spiritual beings created by God, and they may appear to be in human form or other forms in the Bible. We know now that there is a hierarchy of angels, and each of them has its own roles to play.
It is so enlightening, and at the same time, it's interesting to take a step back to see how these beings are made from a religious point of view. We learned that there are different interpretations of angels centuries ago, and they are being modernized today.
No matter what your thoughts about angels. Whether you think of them as humans that do good deeds or protectors from harm, one thing is for sure, their role is to keep us safe from harm and to guide us to do the right thing. They are here to guide us to follow God.
Did you know that you can actually call on your angels for help? Read this full guide on How to Call Angels for Help to know how.