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Where is the Angel of Death found in the Bible?

Around Passover many begin to recount Exodus' account of the Passover: how the Hebrew Israelites put a lamb’s blood on their door and how an “Angel” killed the firstborn of every Egyptian household. This Angel is often renowned as “the Angel of Death”, but upon searching for this Angel in more detail many ask “Where is the Angel of Death found in the Bible?”

Actually, the so-called “Angel of Death” is not found in the Bible. In fact, the scenario of the Passover it is not entailed that the “killer” was even an Angel, but God Himself[1]. There are instances in the Bible of an Angel, oftentimes the Angel of the LORD being used as agent to kill, but no “Angel of Death”. Firstly, the Angel of the LORD is commanded by God to destroy the city of Jerusalem, but in the end the city is spared[2]. The other instance of God’s Angel being assigned to kill is when the Angel destroys an Assyria army of 185,000 under the leadership of Sennacherib[3].

So what many call “the Angel of Death” was actually “the Angel of God”. The Angel of God’s duties were not reserved to large amounts of killings, this role is actually a minor amount of what the Angel does. Usually the Angel of the LORD is used as a mediator for God to manifest His presence in, so that He can communicate with humans. Some say the Angel of the LORD is purely a manifestation of God, while others say he has a distinct identity (some even identify him with Gabriel), however this is a topic for another blogpost and the respective article.

So where does the idea of the “Angel of Death” stem from? There are two possible sources for the mythological “Angel of Death”. The major source (where this false idea probably comes from) is from the Jewish mythological angel named Azrael, who is identified as the “Angel of Death”. This is extra-scriptural and has no grounds of support in the Bible, so it must be treated as purely a Jewish myth [4].

The other possible place of origin is the biblical place of “Abaddon”, another name for Hell or death. Almost every instance where is “Abaddon” is mentioned, it is a personification of either Hell or Death[5] (and is quoted several times in the poetic books of Job, Proverbs and Psalms). Abaddon is only personified as an Angel once in Revelation where John refers to an Angel called Abaddon (in Hebrew) or Apollyon (in Greek), the “angel king of the abyss”[6]. Every mention of Abaddon is likely a personification of Hell or Death, given the figurative languages of the books and the respective context. Even if Abaddon was a literal angel, he is never called “the Angel of Death”, in fact the name “destruction” would be more fitting.

In conclusion, always be careful to make assumptions about things in the Bible. This is a popular example of why it's important to always double check your facts with Scripture. Never assume things, as this leads to the circulation of widespread misconceptions and is “adding” to Scripture. While this is not a sin, it is foolish, yet not surprising when a Christian misquotes an “Angel of Death”. From what is known in Scripture, God never dedicates an Angel nor Himself to the sole purpose of killing. Rather the Angels are mostly “ministering spirits” and messengers (the word angel literally means messenger)[7] not agents of wrath.

  1. Exo 12:11,29 (Link)
  2. 2 Sam 24:16, 1 Chr 21:15 (Link)
  3. 2 Chr 32:21, 2 Kings 19:35, Isa 37:36 (Link)
  4. Tit 1:14 (Link)
  5. Job 26:6, Job 28:22, Job 31:12, Psa 88:11, Prov 15:11, Prov 27:20 (Link)
  6. Rev 9:11 (Link)
  7. Heb 1:14 (Link)

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