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Angels in Judaism

FAQs | Stories | Prayers | Art | Poetry

Jewish Encyclopedia: Angelology. From the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, this article lays out Jewish opinion on Angels in great detail. There's an interesting anaylsis of the post-Exilic recourse to angels:

"During and after the Exile, under the influence of Babylonian and Persian systems of belief, a great change becomes noticeable in the angelic lore of the Jews. The more the monotheistic idea took hold of the people—permitting no being to interfere with the absolute supremacy of YHWH—the greater became the need of personifying the working forces of life, and of grouping them in ranks around the throne of God to form His royal court."
Another passage voices the classifying-scholar's despair at the Baroque splendor of Jewish angelology.
"Upon the foundations of Scripture a gigantic structure was reared at the time of the completion of the Talmud. Post-Talmudic mysticism extravagantly enlarged this structure, until it reached from earth to heaven; and the fanciful ideas of the Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, of the Talmudic and Midrashic works, and of the mystic and cabalistic literature rush along like a wild stream that overflows its banks."

Encyclopedia Mythica: Angels by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis. Excellent discussion of Angels in Judaism, particularly post-Biblical.

Amazon. Magic in the Roman World: Pagans, Jews and Christians by Naomi Janowitz.

This uneven, maddening, fascinating little book was one of the reasons I decided to undertake this project—that I'd have trouble finding this sort of scholarly material and would instead spend hours chasing down Boris Vallejo prints is neither here nor there. Of interest here are her discussion of the rise of late antique angelology (the original "Angel Craze"), and of Jewish esoteric texts, like the Hekhalot Rabbati, which describe the heavenly host and techniques for becoming an angel—it's not just Capra, Smith and Swedenborg after all!

Reviewed by Alex Nice, BMCR (May 2000). Nice notes the rather pell-mell mixing of sources from different traditions and periods, but calls it a good introduction to the Jewish and Rabbinic sources Classicists aren't usually familiar with. See also:

Icons of Power: Ritual Practices in Late Antiquity also by Janowitz.

Reviewed by David Frankfurter, BMCR (April 2002). Starts off with a bang:

"In truth, this book might better have been sub-titled, "theories governing certain élite ritual practices in late antiquity, especially Jewish."
"Readers may also crave clearer historical justification for the focus on Jewish texts within the claim to characterize 'ritual practices in late antiquity' and clearer historical contexts for the comparative discussions of Christian, Neo-Platonic, and "magical" materials like the 'Mithras Liturgy.'"

Jewish Heritage Online Magazine angels page (a topic of the month). A very full collection of information on Angels in Judaism. Highlights include Angels in the Bible (noting differences between Jewish and Christian conceptions and depictions), and Angels in the Talmud, continued with Four Angels of the Presence. The Talmud asserts that the names of the angels were brought from the Babylonian exile (which jibes with their absence until the book of Daniel), and assigns particular angels to various supernatural events in the Bible.

Angel-based Hebrew Lesson from Jewish Heritage Online Magazine's Angels page.


FAQs About Angels (Ask the Rabbis of the Talmud). Wondeful selections from the Talmud, many not agreeing (eg., angels created on second day, fifth day or re-created every day). Other high-points: a discussion of the Metraton and Sandalphon, and the notion that angels, excepting Gabriel, only know Hebrew (thereby nixing prayers in Aramaic). From the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine's Angels page.


Even the Angels are Jealous, a legend retold by Louis Ginzberg. Angels oppose mankind, but eventually relent. Excerpted by the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine.

Amazon. The View from Jacob's Ladder: One Hundred Midrashim by physicist/poet David Curzon.

Excerpt from above about Jacob's ladder, the "world's best-known dream." "Jacob's dream is a dream of the vicissitudes of the heart."

The Midrash version of Abraham and Isaac, courtesy the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine.


Audio: Shalom Aleikhem ("Peace Unto You, O Ministering Angels") a popular Ashkenazi hymn sung when returning from synagogue on Friday, welcoming the shabat angels. Sung by the Efroni Choir, conducted by Maya Shavit. From the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine's Angels page.

Jewish: May the Angel Who Redeems From All Harm Bless the Children (a bedtime prayer), from the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine's Angels page.

Winged Prayers by Morris B. Margolies, on prayer and an experience during the Korean war. "In a deeper sense, prayers are angels and Sandalfon is a metaphor for them." From BeliefNet.


Angels in the Judaica Art Gallery, part of the larger Judaica Art Gallery from Jewish Heritage Online Magazine


Two modern poems by Howard Schwartz and Anath Bental, from the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine's Angels page.

"Sabbath Queen" by Hayyim Nahman Bialik, discussed (and translated) by Joseph Lowin, from the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine's Angels page.

LibraryThing: Catalog your books online.

If you enjoy this site you may like these other sites by me:

Noah's Ark on the Web/a>. Art, religion and culture about Noah and his famous ark; includes 200 pictures, from Antiquity to today.

Cleopatra on the Web. Everything about Cleopatra VII of Egypt, in history ad the Western imagination.