Angel of Death: A Study

Ryan Gustason, 22 Jul 2013

The first thing I’d like to establish is that the Bible does not speak of a death angel, or an angel of death. Many people believe that a death angel went forth on the night of the Passover and struck down the first born of the land of Egypt due to their disobedience towards the man of God’s commands, namely Moses. This is not true. The bible says that God, Yahweh (Self Existent One) went forth to carry out the tenth plague. Let’s look at this account in Exodus 11:4-5 and 12:1, 12-13, 29. Exodus 11: 4 And Moses said, Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: Exodus 11:5 And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. Exodus 12:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, Exodus 12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Exodus 12:13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. Verse 12:1 gives reference to who was speaking in verses 12 and 13. Exodus 12:29 explicitly states that it was the Lord who smote all the firstborn. Lord, in the KJV, is spelled with a capital L when translating Jehovah. This was the national name of God in Israel.
There was no death angel which did this.
There is an angel whose name means destruction. He is called Abbadon in Hebrew, and Appollyon in Greek. Rev 9:11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. This angel was the king of the locust swarm which came from the bottomless pit. There is no reference given to this pit being equivalent to Hades or Hell however. Hell in the New Testament is referred to as Gehenna, Tartaroo, and Hades. Gehenna is known as a place of torment and Hades is known as a place for departed souls. Tartaroo is the deepest place in Hades. Gehenna is used in James 3:6 describing the tongue being on fire from hell and a fire is wielded in unrighteousness. Most times when Gehenna is used, it is used in conjunction with fire. (Matt 23.15,33; Mark 9.43,47; James 3.6) Hades is a reference used for a place for departed souls, and is where Jesus descended into when he took the keys to death and hell. (Rev 1.18; Acts 2.27,
Hell in the Old Testament is always referred to as Sheol, and seems to be equivalent to the Greek word Hades meaning a place for departed souls. Compare Psalms 16.10 and Acts 2.27 which quotes Psalms.
Michael the Archangel, the only angel named specifically in the Bible as an archangel, some scholars have concluded was not only an angel involved in war, but also guided or delivered souls to hell, and could be considered the angel of death. They use Jude verse 9 as their reference. Jude 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. The use of Jude verse 9, specifically the clause ‘disputed about the body of Moses’, is weak evidence to support the conclusion derived by these scholars in my opinion.
The notion of an angel of death may have been brought about by the notion of a ‘grim reaper’. The Jewish Talmud as well as Kabbalistic resources state that the angel of death is known as the angel Samael. They attribute this angel to the acts in Exodus during the tenth plague, which we have already identified the Lord Jehovah having performed.
Samael is only known in Jewish mysticism and is not recognized in Christendom because this angel is not mentioned in the Scriptures.
Only three angels, one of them fallen, are mentioned in the scriptures specifically by name. They are Michael, Gabriel, and Satan. Other references to angels include Wheels of Ezekiel’s vision (Eze 1 and 10), Cherubim which are mentioned in many places in Scripture, always in the plural, and Chariots as referred to in the Psalms.
The figure of a skeleton wielding a scythe and cloaked in a black cloak dates to the 15th century in England. It was also personified in Celtic and Irish folklore.
As such I am more inclined to believe that there is no death angel, angel of death, or grim reaper to be found from a careful study of the Scriptures.

Filed under: angelology