What does Kabbalah teach about angels?

Angels play a prominent role in biblical theology. Therefore, there is angelic doctrine in Kabbalistic teachings as well. According to Kabbalah writings, angels were created before the earth was made and at the point when God said, "Let there be light." Angels were used in the creation of man and are envious of man's free will. There are good and bad angels in a vast network in the spiritual realm. Fallen angels are seen more as negative messengers rather than evil beings. Angels are the intermediaries between the upper worlds and earth and oversee everything that occurs on earth.

Some of the main angels mentioned in the Zohar are Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael.1
"Liliel is the Angel of the Night...Lilith is considered to be the arch she-devil." Sandalphon is the angel of prayer as is Michael.2

There are angels are of "Grace, healing, justice, love, mercy, moon, mountains, Paradise, peace, praise, stars, trees, truth, and water. But there are also angels of confusion, destruction, fear, fire, hail, insomnia, reptiles, storms, terror, and thunder." Accusing-type angels do their work before midnight.3

Relative to your position on earth, three hosts of angels go out to three parts of the universe. The chief angel over the host is called a hayyah, who is said to be the support for the divine Throne. These angels can't praise God.4

Consider what Mr. Cooper says in his book God is a Verb.

  • "The Midrash [a compilation of Jewish commentaries of the Old Testament Scriptures that was gathered between 400 and 1200 A.D.] says that angels debated whether or not human beings should be part of creation. The angel of love felt that it would be a good idea to have humans in this creation because of our potential for expressing love; the angel of truth was opposed to human beings because we tend to tell lies. During this debate, God exhibited examples of humans for Angels to see, but included only well-known characters from biblical lore... next, the angel of Earth rebelled and would not give the Arctic angel Gabriel the dust for God to create humankind. The angel of Earth protested that the physical earth would be cursed and devastated because of human thoughtlessness; it insisted that God take personal responsibility rather than send an Arctic angel as an intermediary...
  • "God revealed in the future to Adam and Eve in a book given to them in the Garden of Eden by the hand of the angel Raziel (secrets of God). This book contained sacred knowledge: 72 branches of wisdom that revealed the formation of 670 inscriptions of higher mysteries. In the middle of the book was a secret writing explaining 1500 keys to the universe, which were not revealed even to the holy angels....
  • "Adam and Eve obtained this book...
  • "When Adam and Eve transgressed the commandments of the Master regarding the Tree of Knowledge, the book flew away from them. Adam was so distressed, he entered the river Gihon (one of the rivers of the garden) up to his neck and stayed there so that his body became wrinkled and his face haggard...
  • "God thereupon made a sign to the Archangel Raphael to return the book, which Adam studied for the rest of his life. He left it to his son Seth, and it went through the generations to Abraham. It is still hidden today, somewhere in the world, for those who know how to read it."5

As you can see, the explanation of angelology in Kabbalistic writings is rather fanciful. These teachings are not based on the Bible. They are based out of human tradition, guesswork, and an effort to unearth the mystical interpretations of Scripture. The problem is that it contradicts biblical teaching.

What does the Bible really say about angels?

Angels are very active in the Bible and are used by God as messengers, warriors, and servants. The word "angel" comes from the Greek word "angelos" which means messenger. Angels are spiritual beings without bodies of flesh and bones though they apparently have the ability to appear in human form (Gen. 19:1-22). Angels had many functions. They praised God (Psalm 103:20), served as messengers to the world (Luke 1:11-20, 26-38; Luke 2:9-14), watched over God's people (Psalm 91:11-12), and were sometimes instruments of God's judgment (Matt. 13:49-50).

The Bible tells us that God created the angels and that at some time in the distant past there was a rebellion in heaven, and many of the angels fell. Apparently, it was the elect angels that did not fall (1 Tim. 5:21). The Bible says that angels were created by Christ (Col. 1:16), that they carry out the will of God (Psalm 103:20; Matt. 6:10), they worship God and Christ (Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:6), are wise (2 Sam. 14:20), mighty (Psalm 103:20), holy (Matt. 25:31), and innumerable (Heb. 12:22). However, angels are not to be worshipped (Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9) since they are creatures.

Are there different kinds of angels?

Apparently, there are different kinds of angels with different characteristics and roles: cherubim, seraphim, and archangels. It may also be that there are "powers" and "principalities" that further describe ranks in the angelic realm, but it is debated. Nevertheless, I'll focus on the three main groups.

  1. "Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew." (Isaiah 6:2).
    1. They praise God (Isaiah 6:3).
    2. The word "seraphim" (singular is seraph) probably a translation of 'fiery ones' and probably stems from the fiery imagery often associated with the Presence of God (cf. Ezek. 1:27).6
  2. "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Gen. 3:24). See also Exodus 25:18-22; Heb. 9:5.
    1. Cherubim are typically represented with wings, feet, and hands but are described in different forms as having two faces (Ezek. 41:18) and even four faces (Ezek. 10:21).
    2. Cherubim were considered to be angels that guarded sacred things. In Gen. 3:24 they guarded the tree of life. They were over the Ark of the Covenant on the Mercy Seat (1 Sam. 4:4). See also Psalm 80:1; 99:1
    3. Figures of Cherubs were embroidered on the temple veil (Exodus 26:31; 2 Chron. 3:7) and lavished Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:26ff).
  3. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thess. 4:16).
    1. The word "archangel" is not found in the Old Testament. References to Michael the Archangel appear only in 1 Thess. 4:16 and Jude 9. However, Gabriel, who is considered an archangel appears in both the OT and NT. In the OT he is found in Dan. 8:15-26 and 9:21-27. In the NT he is mentioned in Luke 1:11-20, 26-38. He seems to be a messenger angel.
    2. On the other hand, Michael the archangel seems to be a warrior angel (Rev. 12:7) who does battle (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1).
    3. An interesting note is that in Rom. 8:38, Eph. 1:21, and Col. 1:16, the word 'principalities' is used. In Greek the word has the prefix of "arche" suggesting archangel. Some think this means there is a hierarchy of angels as is suggested in 1 Pet. 3:22: "who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him," (NASB).
  • 1. Cooper, David A., God is a Verb, New York: Riverhead Brooks, 1997, p. 135.
  • 2. Ibid., p. 135-138.
  • 3. Ibid., p. 141-142.
  • 4. Ibid., p. 143.
  • 5. Ibid., p. 135.
  • 6. Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper's Bible Dictionary, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.